Catholic diocese buys $2.75 million plaza near cathedral in Portland as investment

Posted Jan. 17, 2013, at 6:21 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 18, 2013, at 12:57 p.m.

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PORTLAND, Maine — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has purchased a shopping plaza at 290 Congress St., near its cathedral, as an investment property for $2.75 million.

It is the first time the diocese has purchased an investment property, diocesan spokesman Dave Guthro said Thursday.

The plaza is anchored by a Rite Aid Pharmacy and includes a grocery store, a laundromat and a retail space that is vacant.

“The location between the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Congress Street and St. Peter Parish on Federal Street was attractive and the diocese wanted to take advantage of the opportunity,” he said in an email. “Purchasing investment properties is not a new strategy for the diocese, but any time there is an opportunity to increase revenue we will assess if the opportunity makes sense for us.”

The diocese closed on the property in late December. It will continue to pay the City of Portland $23,000 a year in property taxes, Guthro said. The plaza contains about 18,000 square feet of retail space assessed at $1.23 million.

Guthro declined Thursday to say how much monthly income would be generated from rent because the diocese is negotiating with potential tenants for the empty space.

The diocesan finance council, which is comprised of clergy and lay Catholics, recommended the purchase of the property to Bishop Richard Malone, apostolic administrator for the diocese, according to Guthro.

“People aren’t giving as much to the church as they used to and the bishop believes the property investment and the new revenue stream will provide another way to support our ministries and programs in the future,” the spokesman said.

The plaza was purchased by the Diocesan Savings and Loan, which has been in existence for nearly 40 years, Guthro said. The rental income from the property will go back into the savings and loan.

It was set up so parishes could deposit excess funds or funds set aside for special projects, such as major repairs, and earn interest, he said. Catholic schools and cemeteries also use the savings and loan.

Currently, depositors earn 2.5 percent interest, which is higher than what is being offered by banks.

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