About a year ago, St. Mary Parish won approval from the village of Riverside to build a 2,700-square-foot office, $2 million addition onto the east side of the church. But that plan has now been scrapped with the parish’s purchase last week of the former PNC Bank building at 40 E. Burlington St. in downtown Riverside.

The Rev. Thomas May, pastor of St. Mary’s, confirmed the parish closed on the roughly 36,000-square-foot property Jan. 10. The sale price was not immediately available. PNC Bank had listed the property, which includes not only the building but 28 parking spaces, for $925,000.

Parish officials had planned to move ahead with the addition until they learned PNC was closing the branch and putting the property up for sale.

“When we got inside, it seemed that it would work well,” said May of the former bank branch. “It’s a large, blank canvas that we can do what we want to. It gives us more space for less money and more parking.”

The former bank building needs a new roof, said May, but the heating and air-conditioning units are newer and build-out of offices and meeting rooms for parish use should not be too difficult to complete.

The hope is to have the office space occupied by August, prior to the start of the 2019-20 school year, said May. Once that happens, the parish can concentrate on reconverting the rectory – where the parish offices have been located since the late 1990s – into a residence only.

May said that the hope is that the rectory project will be completed sometime in early 2020. 

It’s unclear just how much of an impact the renovation will have on living conditions during construction. May said his plan was to remain in the building during the renovation. He is the only priest living at St. Mary Parish at this time.

According to May, the parish had considered buying residential properties that had come up for sale recently, including the house immediately east of the church and another on the north side of Herrick Road, but they just didn’t work.

“Even if we used them as a rectory, there were zoning changes needed and it was complicated,” May said. “None of those ever worked out that well.”

While the purchase of 40 E. Burlington St. solves a longstanding problem for St. Mary Parish, the move surely is not popular with municipal officials. The village is losing not only an opportunity to redevelop a commercial property in the midst of Riverside’s downtown, but the property will also go off the tax rolls, since it is owned by the church.

“I understand the church’s need for office space, but I’m disappointed it’s in the middle of our business district,” said Village President Ben Sells. “We were hoping they’d accomplish the project at the church. We’re disappointed to have premium commercial property off the tax rolls. On the other hand, they need the space.”

The parcels comprising the former PNC Bank property generated $55,130 in property tax revenue for tax year 2017, which was paid in 2018. Of that amount $39,056 went to schools serving the village, while $11,103 went to fund municipal operations.

While that money won’t disappear, the tax burden instead will be spread among all the other taxpayers in the village.

When Riverside School District 96 closes on the former Texor office building at the corner of Harlem Avenue and East Quincy Street, that will be another commercial property off of the tax rolls.

For tax year 2017, the Texor property generated a total of $43,207 in property tax revenues.

The purchase also ends any chance, for now, to assemble three adjacent commercial properties and undertake a significant redevelopment in downtown Riverside.

Patrick Leone, whose Lion Development bought the commercial condominiums of the Village Center building in 2013, has also acquired the properties at 28 E. Burlington St. and 30 E. Burlington St., which stand between the Village Center and the PNC Bank building.

Reached by email, Leone said he had “no new plans as of now. We will evaluate our options in the coming months.”