Myth: Trinity Episcopal Church (TEC) didn't do enough due diligence and vetting.
TEC received two proposals from firms known for adaptive reuse of churches. Following careful vetting and a thorough evaluation of the proposals, TEC decided that the McGroarty proposal was the best solution for the property because it preserved the historical structure and created sufficient income to maintain the structure, provided worship space, and supported the community through employment opportunities and getting the property back on the tax rolls.
Myth: McGroarty is trying to rush the Trinity project through.
This has not been our experience. We have been going through the standard process for use proposals. In fact, the original deadline for this project was nearly two years ago.
Myth: The Trinity Church congregation will be required to borrow a huge amount of money and is going to run the inn and event space.
To qualify for Historic Tax Credits, the property must be transferred from the church to an LLC, a for-profit entity. Therefore, the church is not taking out a loan, it is the LLC that will take out the loan.
The inn and event space will not be run by the church. Once completed, the church is not involved in the operations. There will be a management team of 20 full-time employees and 10 additional part-time employees.
Myth: There will be a parking and safety issue at this property.
The proposal conforms to existing parking code requirements and does so all within the property. Two, one-way entrances and one dual entry/exit entrance ensures safe access to and from the property. For large events, a shuttle service will be provided to offsite parking.
Myth: The proposed Trinity project will ruin the neighborhood feel.
The project will enhance the feel of the neighborhood and bring new visitors to the city. The church buildings will remain exactly as they are with no additions. From a visual aspect, there will be no change. The plans for Trinity would allow this historic building to survive and thrive. It will become a quaint inn, restaurant, special event space and continue as a house of worship. Many of the structures on the street already offer apartment rentals, fraternities, and other commercial accommodations through Airbnb, VRBO or serve as B&Bs. Inn residents can walk to the colleges and downtown restaurants and shops.
As one of the requirements for use variances, the City of Geneva's Zoning Board of Appeals, noted that the adaptive reuse would not harm the character of the neighborhood. Upon appeal, Judge Reed of the New York State Supreme Court upheld the Zoning Board of Appeals decision.
Myth: Trinity will become a "party house".
The plan for Trinity is to allow this beautiful, historic church to be saved, maintained and shared with the larger community. It would also allow for parishioners to return to their place of worship without the burden of significant operating expenses. The adaptive reuse plan preserves the beauty of Trinity and its worship services, restores the property to current operating codes, and makes necessary building repairs. All of this can happen because those costs are offset by offering a flexible space for a quaint inn, restaurant and special events targeted at tourists and the local community. Quaint inns don't operate "party houses", fraternities do. There are seven existing fraternities on South Main Street.
Myth: Opposition do not oppose change but believe Trinity can be re-purposed.
The opposition continues to delay the project which is their legal right. However, current zoning allows for residential, multi-residential uses, churches, professional offices, bed & breakfasts, boarding houses, lodges, fraternities, sororities, hospitals, health clinics, funeral homes, and other uses. The opposition states they "welcome the church to consider options consistent with current zoning". By this statement, the opposition would accept without apposing a 24-hour hospital or 24-hour health clinic, lodge or fraternity, all permitted uses. However, the option put forth by opposition is for apartments only which has been demonstrated not to be a viable alternative.
Myth: Trinity has let the the property decline and refuses to use its endowment.
As most endowments, the church's endowment is earmarked for church ministry and not singled out for property repairs. The endowment of Trinity Church is for perpetuation of the ministry of the church, not the building only. If all of it went to shoring up the building, not only is it not enough to address the needs, it would insure the end of the ministry as well.
The current endowment is approximately $800,000.00
Notwithstanding, the church has spend considerable funds from the endowment. The church has not allowed the property to decline. Over the past seven years the church has spent approximately $900,000 from the endowment in preservation costs. Current preservation costs are estimated at $2.5 million. Even if the church spent the entire endowment there is still a shortfall of $1.7 million.
Myth: Why can't the Rectory be sold and Francklyn and Trinity Halls be renovated into apartments?
To respond to the question, one must understand the complexities of Historic Tax Credits (HTCs) and the costs associated with preserving the church sanctuary - $2.4 million plus.
Simply put, the project cannot be undertaken without Historic Tax Credits. To qualify for HTCs, the project would be transferred into a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), be “for profit” with the purchaser of the HTCs owning most of the LLC from a cash flow standpoint for the first five years.
In addition, per Part 1 approval of the project by the Department of Interior, the Department has determined that both the church and rectory contribute to the historic significance of the property and must be treated as one property. Historically, the Department has ruled the removal of one building (the rectory) disqualifies the whole property from receiving HTCs. Therefore, selling the rectory separately would likely disqualify the church and the rectory from receiving HTCs.
Even if the rectory was sold separately, Francklyn and Trinity Halls have two possible alternatives:
If retained as one, in the unlikely scenario the Department ruled the property still qualified for HTCs, there is still not enough money available from the sale of the rectory for preservation costs ($2.4 million) plus the additional costs to update the church for event space or other income producing alternatives to sustain it.
If the halls were separated, the Department would likely rule that the halls would lose HTCs since the property is no longer one.
In either of the above alternatives, there is insufficient money available to fund the preservation of the church.