Former church granted tax exemption for seven years worth about $400,000 in savings 


Monitor staff

Published: 08-16-2023 10:23 AM

A historic church downtown used as a homeless shelter last winter will receive nearly $400,000 in property tax breaks from the city of Concord to ease its conversion into market-rate downtown housing.

Developers Jonathan Chorlian and Ben Kelley have entered into a purchase-and-sale agreement with the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness to acquire the church for $675,000 and plan to invest about $6 million to renovate it, according to city documents.

As part of the redevelopment of the property, Chorlian and Kelley asked City Council on Monday night to approve a seven-year tax exemption for the renovation because of the public benefit it will have.

Over seven years, the city estimates $393,411 will be saved in taxes. To qualify for the exemption, formally known as the 79-E Community Revitalization Tax Relief Incentive, the property needs to meet one of five public benefits required by state law. The conversion of the former First Congregational Church meets all five, explained Matt Walsh, Concord’s deputy city manager for development.

“The property is historically significant. It has been determined potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places,” Walsh wrote in his report to the council. “The developer’s project will preserve and renovate the existing structure at the property.”

City councilors agreed the project met the threshold for tax exemption by enhancing the economic vitality of downtown, improving a structure that is culturally or historically important, promoting the preservation and reuse of a historic structure, and increasing residential housing in an urban center.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Opinion: Our first Virginia winter? How climate change has impacted NH
In a big blow, Spirit Airlines is ending flights from Manchester airport
One last plea to save historic home: Norris House on Main Street due to be torn down soon
New fields, track, bleachers and field house – Memorial Field designs include long list of upgrades
Inmate back in custody after fleeing from Concord Hospital
DOT announces I-93 speeding, distracted driving initiative

“I hope people support this important step to expanding our housing stock in the city,” said Mayor Jim Bouley on Monday night. “Most don’t check all of the boxes, and this one does check off every single box. This is why this was designed by the state – to do projects like this and provide the housing stock we need.”

Plans for the housing project will appear before the Concord Planning Board on Wednesday to determine if the application is complete before a public hearing can be held. Board members will take public comment on the project at a later date.

Though the exterior of the 26,000-square-foot church will remain largely unchanged from its original construction in 1937, site plans indicate the interior will be renovated to accommodate 30 market-rate units consisting of one- and two-bedroom pet-friendly units starting at $1,400 a month, Chorlian said in an interview with the Monitor last month. Parking will be available for residents on adjacent properties to be acquired as part of the project, and new green spaces and landscaping will be added, including 20 new trees.

The city of Concord has been struggling to meet housing demands for the last several years. Though there are several housing developments underway across the city, the housing vacancy rate remains below 1%, which is well below state and national averages. 

The coalition purchased the church in 2020 for $800,000, primarily to offer an expanded winter shelter to allow for social distancing during COVID-19 and eventually to provide more permanent housing to the city’s homeless, but the conversion of the property proved costly, leading to the decision to sell.

The First Congregational Church, established in Concord in 1730 was first located in a log house and was replaced by the Old North Church in 1751, which stood on the site of the Walker School until it burned down at an unknown date. The third church, a frame building, was built in 1842 and burned down in 1873 when it was replaced by a brick building that later burned down in 1935. The current church was built in 1937 and expanded in 1967, according to city documents. 

Both Chorlian and Kelley have been involved in multiple redevelopment projects in Concord, including the preservation and redevelopment of Sacred Heart Church, the demolition of the St. Pet ers Church to make way for new condominiums, the redevelopment of the former Concord OB/GYN building on North Main Street and the redevelopment and sale of a commercial building at 6 Loudon Road. 

Editor’s note: This article has been changed to accurately reflect new financial amounts of the tax break, a lower purchase price for the property and a reduced number of units from 33 to 30.