Potential buyers of the Twin Cities archbishop's home and offices have until March 18 to make an offer, under procedures approved by a bankruptcy court judge Thursday.
Prime real estate owned by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has seen renewed interest in recent weeks from prospective bidders, from groups ranging from housing to office developers, said real estate broker Paul Donovan.
"There's strong interest," said Donovan, who attended Thursday's court hearing. "The potential uses [of the property] explored have been creative, from repurposing the offices to a complete redevelopment."
The Summit Avenue chancery, across from the St. Paul Cathedral, is among the properties being sold by the archdiocese to pay off creditors. The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy last January, after a flood of clergy abuse claims.
The court approved a $2.75 million purchase agreement with United Properties Development earlier this month, which drew criticism for being too low. The chancery property was valued at $6.3 million "based upon the Archdiocese's review of Ramsey County public records," according to court documents.
In the weeks ahead, any additional bids will be reviewed by the archdiocese and the bankruptcy committees representing abuse victims and parishes. A hearing before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Kressel to approve a final purchase agreement is scheduled for March 31.
If the chancery and archbishop's residence are purchased for re-use as office space, they could generate a higher sale price and therefore more funds for abuse victim settlements, said Donovan.
Donovan said he expected about three additional bids from interested parties. A half dozen, he said, have toured the chancery in recent weeks. Having clear procedures in place, and a deadline for sales agreements set by the court, is what some developers were looking for, he said.
"We wouldn't be surprised if it [a purchase agreement] moved to $4 million," said Donovan. "But it would require the city and neighborhood to be supportive of uses."
In other action, Kressel approved the archdiocese's agreement with the Ramsey County attorney's office, reached last month. The agreement settles a civil case filed by the county, charging the archdiocese with failure to protect children, in particular with its oversight of former priest Curtis Wehmeyer. Wehmeyer was found guilty of sexually abusing two boys from his St. Paul church.
The three-year agreement requires the church to enforce new protocols to prevent and address child sex abuse, and requires the archdiocese to appear in court every six months to update its progress.
The archdiocese told Kressel there could be some costs associated with the agreement, such as for counseling services for victims. Kressel said that "the significant social benefits" outweigh the costs.
Ramsey County's criminal case, filed simultaneously with the civil case, remains ongoing.