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Religious congregation transitions property to promote mission & environmental values

The Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy is a religious congregation of women founded in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1829. The Sisters have dedicated their lives to serving the poor, children, and the elderly with healthcare, education, and community outreach. For the past 50+ years, the Sisters have resided on approximately 23 acres of land with 1,400 feet of frontage on the Charleston Harbor. The property was improved with a 27,767-square-foot building that serves as the Sister’s motherhouse and convent. Originally a remote location on the outskirts of the city, the property had become surrounded by residential neighborhoods. Demand for new housing within the city and surroundings had attracted national developer and homebuilder interests.

In 2018, the Sisters reached out Plante Moran Realpoint (PMR), formerly Plante Moran REIA, to request assistance with planning for the future of this small group of sisters regarding the sustainability of their mission, identifying where their elder sisters might live and how they might receive support, and possible options for the use of their property.

On the beginning, the Sisters asked PMR to facilitate the development of affordable seniors housing on the property through a request for proposals (RFP) process. The objective of the disposition was to balance the Sisters’ mission to support the use of the property for seniors housing while obtaining reasonable consideration to augment the Sisters’ resources in support of their congregation’s ongoing healthcare needs.

Through the developer RFP process, PMR was able to attract three competitive proposals for affordable seniors housing. However, because of site restraints and political headwinds, favorable terms and conditions could not be structured appropriately. Subsequently, we helped the Sisters pivot and seek proposals that were in closer conformity with the underlying zoning and mirrored the property’s highest and best use. Our objective became maximizing proceeds to support the Sisters in fulfilling their objectives.

PMR launched a national marketing campaign to a robust list of public and private developers, to which we added regional prospects generated through research and networking within the community. Our efforts generated 15 offers in excess of appraised value and several nearing twice the value. Additionally, our outreach to the public sector generated interest from the State Department of Natural Resources because of the property’s proximity to state-owned land and its potential value as a community asset. The property ultimately sold to the State of South Carolina for preservation and education purposes in 2021.

As a result of the leverage created through a robust marketing effort to the private sector, PMR was able to access the highest levels of state government and negotiate an expedited closing for cash at over two- and one-half times the appraised value. The proceeds secured the future of the Sisters’ retirement, provided substantial resources to fulfill their ongoing mission to continue their ministry of service, and concluded in an outcome that protected the land for public access and use. 

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