How developers attract religious buildings and why
ROBERT STEUTEVILLE    APR. 1, 2005
While many developers simply allow churches to compete on the open market for available parcels of land, some developers provide incentives to help attract a community of faith to a particular location. Such incentives may include: • Reserving a prime location for a church; • Donating land directly to a congregation (or in the case of a multifaith chapel, to a nonprofit 501(c)3 created to manage the building); • Securing deed restrictions for the site in the form of proffers; • Discounting the land or offsetting some of the costs to the church; • Providing in-house architectural services at reduced or no cost to the congregation; • Providing roads and other infrastructure that benefit the church. While the presence of a church might ultimately raise house values and bring in extra revenue to the developer, in the short term a religious building won’t be a significant revenue generator. When developers offer these kinds of incentives, which cut into their profitability, they operate from a variety of motives. John Clark, whose Haymount (Caroline County, Virginia) includes plans for six churches and a cemetery, says that religious institutions offer the following benefits that justify providing space for their activities: • Prominent public space; • Beautiful civic architecture; • A home for spiritual communities that nurtures civic spirit for the entire community; • An opportunity to close the circle of life and demonstrate that death is something not to be feared (referring specifically to the cemetery). Since many of these factors involve intangible elements that might take years to balance out financially, it appears as if the privately owned development corporations have an easier time justifying such expenses than the publicly traded companies that must answer to a board of directors. However, with each successful inclusion of religious institutions in a TND, this case becomes easier to make.