Court blocks DC church condo project

St Thomas Dupont Circle in danger of going bankrupt after Court issues stop-work order

A progressive Episcopal Church in Washington is facing a financial crisis after a stop-work order was issued by the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs last month, halting construction of condominium development at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Parish in Dupont Circle.

The priest in charge of St Thomas’, the Rev. Alex Dyer, told the Washington Business Journal that work on the seven-story, 56-unit combination apartment building and church was 60 per cent complete when the stop-work order was issued on 23 April 2018. “We are talking about thousands of dollars per day” in costs.

In March 2017 construction began to replace the original church sanctuary destroyed in 1970 by fire after a zoning variance was approved by the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment. To finance the project, the church partnered with developers to build a multi-use facility with space for the church, residential and commercial units. From 2006 to 2016 the average Sunday attendance of St Thomas fell in half, from approximately 150 to 75.

After construction began, Fr. Dyer courted controversy by designing barriers that carried pointed political messages critical of President Donald Trump’s views on immigration, gun control and other contemporary political issues. He told the Huffington Post the signs were an “opportunity to give voice to a side of Christianity that many people may not associate with Christianity.”

“We are a very progressive church in a very progressive city,” he said. “There are many people who think Christians are close-minded, judgmental, and oppose science,” he said. “This is not the people in the congregation or many congregations around the country.”

However Fr. Dyer’s plans for revitalizing the parish through developing the church’s property may have collapsed after the Dupont Circle Residents Association protested plans to build the high-rise in the fashionable Washington neighborhood, and sought an injunction from the D.C. Court of Appeals. The court found in favor the DCRA, prompting the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to issue the order.

Fr. Dyer stated it was “truly shocking that our church is being targeted by the DCRA and a small group of citizens, who I have tried to work with on many occasions. A vacant construction site benefits no one. We love Dupont Circle and this city. All St. Thomas’ Parish desires is to use its resources to make this city and this world a better place.”

The parish has filed an appeal of the ruling.


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