Dear Companions on the Journey:
The physical limitations of the current Episcopal House at 31 Mulberry Street in Newark have been apparent for many years. While we appreciated the central Newark location, Bishops Croneberger, Beckwith, and I also recognized that the building itself presents challenges in adequately supporting the ministry of our staff, congregations and diocesan organizations.
In early 2021, New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) asked the Bishop’s Office to consider selling the building to the arts center as part of a major expansion project. In response, in April 2021 I called together a small committee, the 31 Mulberry Discernment Group, with the goal of determining if the current building could meet our ministry needs or if we needed to look for a new site.
After spending a year seeking input from staff, tenants, space use specialists, architects, and commercial realtors, the group recommended to the Trustees of the Diocese and to me, that indeed it was time to sell the building and look for a new site for Episcopal House.
As a result of their recommendation, a contract for the sale of 31 Mulberry Street to NJPAC has been signed with closing to take place by September 2024. We have two years to find, purchase or lease property, prepare the property for use, and move.
NJPAC intends to incorporate the building into their current plan for the further development of the area around the performing arts center.
The contract price of $3.85M represents a significant premium to the appraised value of the building, which was possible because of NJPAC’s strong desire for the property. The proceeds will be used to cover the costs of acquiring, refitting and moving into the new facility, with the balance added to the endowment that supports the annual operating budget.
To take on the important and pressing task of finding a new site for Episcopal House, I have called a group comprised of members from every Region of the diocese and convened by Sam Reckford, Chief Financial Officer to make recommendation(s) to the Trustees and me. I expect this group will need at least a year for its work.
Among the group’s considerations will be finding a location that can be a visible presence in the community; is welcoming and hospitable to visitors, including better parking; how our use of space has changed during the pandemic; and what this building can be to the wider diocese. The diocesan staff earnestly desires that the new location will allow them all to be on the same floor, as the current multi-floor configuration is detrimental to their work together. The group will be considering locations both in Newark and in the wider diocese.
After a new location for Episcopal House is selected, we will use the remaining time to prepare the property to best meet the needs of the diocesan staff and of the diocesan organizations that regularly use the building.
It’s important to note that while the offices where the diocesan staff do much of their day-to-day work will be moving, our Cathedral – the seat of the Bishop – is staying right where it is at Trinity & St. Philip’s. And in fact, it is poised on the cusp of an exciting time in its long history. (See What’s ahead for our Cathedral?)
The diocese has been through this discernment process four times in its history, from establishing its first dedicated headquarters in Newark in 1921, then moving to Orange, then moving back to Newark to reside first at 24 Rector Street and then 31 Mulberry Street. (See 101 years, 4 buildings: The history of diocesan headquarters.) I invite your prayers as we embark on this endeavor for the fifth time.
Grace and peace,