Five-story apartment building proposed for Community Church property, along with renovation of church building

Artist’s rendering of apartment building (rear) and renovated Community Church of the Pelhams proposed by the developer and the church. View is looking east on Washington Avenue.

A local developer and the Community Church of the Pelhams are seeking a change in the village zoning ordinance that would allow the construction of a five-story, 30-unit apartment building on the property, as well as see the renovation of the church building.

The Community Church, 100 years old this year, is located on 448 Washington Ave. in the Pelhamwood neighborhood.

The petition by developer Soren R.E. LLC asks that the village create a new mixed-use district (MX) that would permit parcels of 30,000 square feet or larger to combine a house of worship, apartments, offices and child-care services.

Former Pelham Mayor Michael Volpe is a principal in Soren R.E.

The first step in consideration of the proposal will be a review by the Village of Pelham Planning Board Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. during a Zoom meeting. Members of the Pelhamwood Association were mobilizing last week to attend the meeting and oppose the project.

After the planning board has weighed in, the Village of Pelham Board of Trustees would have to vote to amend the zoning ordinance to add the new MX zone to the ordinance and then rezone the church property, which is currently zoned residential A-2, as are all the properties in surrounding Pelhamwood.

The five-story apartment building would be constructed in the existing parking lot adjacent to the church, with 80% of the rental units occupied by at least one individual aged 55 or older. The 30 apartments would be “targeted at ‘downsizers’ and seniors looking to ‘age in place’ in the community,” the developer’s petition said. Soren R.E. and the church also envision providing day-care services and 4,500 square feet of co-working space for the public to rent. Parking for the apartments and the church would total 60 spaces on the first two floors of the new building.

The Community Church sought the deal because of repairs it can’t afford.

The church requires “seven-figure” spending on maintenance and renovation, including replacement of the roof, repairs to the storm-damaged basement floor, and upgrades to heating and air conditioning systems and disability access, according to the developer’s filing.

“The church does not have the resources to undertake a seven-figure renovation project,” the documents said. Soren R.E. has a contract to purchase the property and is exploring with the church creating a partnership to overhaul the building, the documents said, adding that the congregation’s membership has slowly declined over the years and contributions and dues will not cover the costs of maintaining and repairing the building.

The Community Church belongs to the United Church of Christ and also hosts another denomination. The Junior Wonders Preschool operates out of the building. It is also the meeting place for Pelham Boy Scout Troop 1, LGBTQ support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous, which has met there since 1947, and other groups.

It is unclear if any other properties in the village would meet the requirements of the proposed MX zone, should it be created. If St. Catherine’s Roman Catholic Church is on a parcel of at least 30,000 square feet, presumably it could, though it would likely need to repurpose or tear down some buildings on the property to add apartments or offices. (The size of St. Catherine’s property could not be determined at deadline.)