|The Calvary Bible Church and school building, which sits on 18 acres, is available for $5.5 million.|
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- A local congregation is taking a leap of faith: They’re looking at selling their Calvary Bible Church building in an effort to reduce their debt and find a more suitable use for the sprawling $5.5 million 18-acre parcel that used to also house a K-12 school.
“Just like everybody else, we’re looking at the future. But we have some debt we’d like to get rid of, so of course if we can get into a building debt free, that would be financially preferable. We’re not sure where things are going, but the church itself is in the best financial state it’s been in a while. There’s no story here — it’s just an exploratory thing,” said Rev. John D. Talley III, the church’s senior pastor, who spoke reluctantly last week about the church’s real estate listing.
“It’s very low key in our minds. As a pastor, I know some of the emotions are running high among members of our congregation who have an attachment to this building,” Talley said.
The property at 145 Hampstead Road includes the original 1960 church building and a school building addition, totaling 68,727 square feet. Perks include a commercial-grade kitchen, gymnasium, auditorium with cathedral ceiling, classrooms, science lab, a soccer field, playground and 300 parking spaces.
In July 2009 Talley announced that due to slumping enrollment and a general shift in family values away from church-based education, Calvary Christian School was ceasing operations after 39 years. At the time there were a dozen teachers employed and 111 students enrolled for the 2009-2010 school year. At it’s peak, Calvary Christian School had an enrollment of about 500 students. Tuition ranged from $3,500 for kindergarten up to $5,700 for grades 6-12 when it closed in 2009.
Yesterday, Realtor Frederick Afshar of Keller Williams Realty in Bedford said the $5.5 million property is one of the firm’s more unusual listings.
“It doesn’t happen too often — actually, it was appraised higher, but we felt this was a good price. It’s just too much building for a church of 400 to 500 people, now that the school is closed,” said Afshar.
He said he has had one potential client interested in putting an assisted living facility on the grounds, but that deal didn’t work out.
“Because it is a church in a residentially zoned area, it’s known as a special use building — that zoning doesn’t allow for factories or other commercial uses. It’s very specific. In fact, I had to do a few months of research before I listed it,” said Afshar.
Town Planning Director George Sioras said he had met with Afshar and Talley three or four months ago to discuss the restrictions on the property, should a buyer be identified.
“Pastor Talley was just notifying the town that it was an exploratory type of listing. We told them that, because it’s in a low-medium density residential zone, the only options without requesting a zoning variance would be something like another church or school, a Boys and Girls Club or a YMCA type operation,” Sioras said.
He also said that in his 26 years with the town, he can’t recall a church building ever being for sale.
“It has a nice, modern kitchen, a soccer field and some nice acreage out there. It will be interesting to see what happens,” Sioras said.