St. Catherine’s back on market after Grace United’s deal falls through

  • Pastor Steve Behlke of Grace United Church, which currently meets at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, said that his church’s deal to buy the former St. Catherine of Alexandria Church, pictured here, has fallen through because of a zoning problem. The church is back on the market. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Pastor Steve Behlke of Grace United Church, which currently meets at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, said that his church’s deal to buy the former St. Catherine of Alexandria Church, pictured here, has fallen through because of a zoning problem. The church is back on the market. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Pastor Steve Behlke of Grace United Church, which currently meets at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, said that his church’s deal to buy the former St. Catherine of Alexandria Church, pictured here, has fallen through because of a zoning problem. The church is back on the market. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

@BeraDunau
Published: 1/29/2018 9:02:57 PM

NORTHAMPTON — St. Catherine of Alexandria Church in Leeds is back on the market, nearly four months after being sold at auction to Grace United Church.

“Leeds would have been great,” said Steve Behlke, Grace United’s pastor.

Grace United’s plans to relocated its nondenominational Christian church into the building at 195 Main St. hit a snag last fall when Behlke discovered that the church could not renovate and use the basement because the church building is in the Mill River floodplain.

Grace United made a winning bid of $17,500 for the property last October, in an auction where it was the only bidder. Behlke said that the church planned on investing $100,000 into the building.

The plans fell through when a contractor hired by Grace United determined, in conversations with the city, that no permitting would be issued that would allow the church to use the basement for anything other than storage.

“That’s like 4,000 square feet of space that we needed,” Behlke said.

He noted that the church had planned to put classrooms, a dining room, a kitchen and additional bathrooms in the basement, and that these facilities were vital to Grace United’s plans to serve children and youth.

Once it was determined that these improvements could not be made, Behlke said that Grace United moved to end its agreement with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield to purchase the building.

“We came to a mutual agreement,” said Behlke, which he said was reached in December.

He also said that Grace United had to eat some of its bid as part of the agreement.

Diocese spokesman Mark Dupont said that the sale of the church had not been finalized by the time the agreement was dissolved. He also said that the diocese has no plans to put St. Catherine’s back up to auction at this time. St. Catherine’s is continuing to be marketed for $295,000 through Colebrook Realty Services Inc.

Grace United meets at 10 a.m. every Sunday at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School. Behlke said that it draws about 150 congregants every Sunday, and that Feb. 4 will mark the church’s fifth anniversary.

“They treat us well,” said Behlke, of the church’s arrangement with the school. “It’s good for right now.”

He said that although Grace United would like to have a space of its own, it is not in a hurry to acquire one. He also said that the church is looking to stay in the Northampton area.


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