From Church to Office and Community Space

Smart-Growth Challenge: How can a neighborhood best re-purpose a large institutional building?

Hillside Square in Montclair was originally home to a First Church of Christ, Scientist congregation. The property is located in a single-family zone, bordered by a public zone and a multi-family zone. It is a half-block from Montclair’s neighborhood commercial and central business zones, and within walking distance of restaurants, retail shops, the library, and other houses of worship. Designed by a Chicago‐based architectural firm and constructed in 1926, the approximately 20,000-sq.-ft. church, which once housed a thriving congregation, had seen its membership decline dramatically in recent years. Maintenance costs were becoming excessive, and in 2009 the church voted to sell the property and the building. There was little interest from other churches despite the property’s well-maintained facility and prime location.

In the spring of 2010, Bob Silver and Jay Schweppe of Hillside Square LLC presented a plan to church leaders that would let the church sell the property but keep the congregation in its home by leasing a smaller space in a newly renovated building. The church unanimously approved the plan.