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Live in This Stately Church Conversion for $249,000

The two-bedroom triplex is one of two currently for sale in the 30-year-old conversion of a 1917 Christian Science church, one of the most regal structures in Beverly.

The former Christian Science church at 103rd Street and Longwood Drive, now 16 condos.   Photo: Ian Spula

It would be rash to dismiss Beverly as a reserve of single-family homeowners. The often hermetic and always proud neighborhood is certainly defined by its suburban proportions—whether by bungalow or big manor, Beverly’s lots guarantee breathing room and beauty—but there are pockets of multiunit buildings near the Metra tracks tracing Longwood Drive. One of the more forward-thinking examples is pinned to the scenic drive, near 103rd Street. It is the early 1980s condominium conversion of a historic 1917 Christian Science church—done prior to most likeminded projects in places now associated with this sexy subtype, like Lake View or Wicker Park.

The lofted for-sale unit has two bedrooms and two full baths on a carpeted lower level, and modern living and dining areas, a renewed kitchen, and a half-bath filling the open main level. The loft is ideal as an office or some manner of family room, and there’s storage space to boot. A new feature of the loft is a tall metal cabinet built-in, tucked behind the exposed truss. Most of the condo’s rooms have seen improvements or modifications by the seller, who has spent seven years in the home.

Another tremendous asset is the large north-facing deck off of the living room, overlooking the famed Irish Castle, a Starbucks built into the church’s old reading room, and a block of shops stretching to the train. It’s a representative sample of this hilly enclave—scenery spliced with dense nodes.

Neighborhood developer Jack Moody did the conversion—his one and only. “They were priced high for the day but he still only broke even on the project,” says seller Jane McDonald. The building’s demographic mix has always included some younger owners interested in living beside the train to the city; a family or two; and a number of empty nesters from the area, for which this housing type proves a valuable resource. “The older owners don’t want to be mowing lawns or shoveling snow, but they want to stay in Beverly,” says McDonald. As for herself, McDonald has sent the kids packing and is choosing her Indiana beach house over the city.

All of the building’s 16 units are cut somewhat differently, but eight are triplexes and eight are duplex-downs. Each unit also has exposed steel trusses arching along the walls as well as pieces of original stained glass embedded in drywall. Stroll the common hallways and you’ll find other odd juxtapositions of stained glass and newer walls and stairwells.

I’ll stress again that this residential church conversion is one of the largest around and was among the very first in region (I can’t confirm if it was absolutely the first). Many of the smaller conversions took place in the bubble years on the North Side, when developers were on a feeding frenzy. A church building in a residential district already has the zoning for a certain number of residential units. Work within these allowances, and it’s an easy proposition. Plus, when a church transitions to private residences, it joins the city’s tax rolls.

Price Points: The unit is priced $13,500 below its August 2007 sale. In an area with pronounced market correction in the intervening years, this a confident starting point even with the thorough updates. According to Midwest Real Estate Data, Beverly saw a 32 percent loss in home value between 2006 and 2013, although a little has been regained since. By Trulia’s accounting, median sales price for all properties hit $300,000 between August and November, up 13.2 percent from this time last year.

Another two-bed triplex with a spiral staircase and share of the church’s front façade is for sale, asking $229,900 after posting at $252,900 in May. We’ll see if the side-by-side listings spark competition and whether different seasons produce different trajectories.

Bernadette Molloy of Molloy & Associates has the listing.

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