Making a Difference for The Archdiocese of Philadelphia

“Having the CRE [Consulting Corps] report and looking at the backgrounds of the folks that were involved really went a long way with senior staff to get me a greenlight to move things forward. It was a pleasant experience and a very successful one. We’ve really come a long way.”  

Deacon Tom Croke, Former Director of Real Estate, Archdiocese of Philadelphia 

The Client: The legacy of this Diocese is rooted in 19th century immigrant communities covering five counties: Montgomery, Buck, Chester, Delaware, and Philadelphia.  Through its Office of Real Estate Services, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia engaged the CRE Consulting Corps to advise them on best practices for managing important real estate assets. In 2015, when the Consulting Corps provided guidance to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, there were approximately 1.4 million members, some 1100 parcels, and more than 270 parishes. 

The Challenge: The Archdiocese faced a number of challenges including changes in state and local demographics, declining Parish populations, and a need to address excess inventory and close churches and other buildings with sacred attributes.  

Assessment: The Consulting Corps team visited in October 2015. Team members analyzed property management and real estate processes and operations, roles and responsibilities of the Real Estate Services Office and structure of decision-making. The team reviewed data and toured sites including the Cathedral Block and Holy Innocents parish. Interviews were conducted with key stakeholders. 

The team was charged with three primary objectives: 

  • Evaluate Real Estate processes/operations for decision making.
  • Evaluate Real Estate holdings of sample parish (Archdiocese and Parish Level) to serve as prototype.
  • Provide tools for improved performance, including benchmarking. 

Findings And Recommendations:
The team calculated the real estate assets, in total assessed tax value, to be worth more than a billion dollars, which clearly necessitates real estate management best practices, which the team offered. The team also uncovered valuable historic documents and recommended incorporating archival best practices to protect fragile documents. 

The team addressed the roles and responsibilities of the Real Estate Services Office, recommended clarified processes, including development of an operations manual, and outsourcing certain roles such as brokerage and leasing. The team recommended that leadership reconsider the Cathedral Block. And, to assist with decision making and needed consolidation, the team evaluated the holdings of a sample parish and provided a recommended process, presented as a template to be used to guide decision making for other parishes in similar circumstances.  

The Archdiocese has implemented many of the ream’s recommendations, including redevelopment of the Cathedral Block. While there were more than 158 under- or unutilized properties in 2011, making use of the team’s recommendations enabled the real estate office to reduce that number to 10 over the next 10 years. The recommendations of the outside experts presented the needed guidance so the Archbishop and bishops endorsed the recommendations and advanced the process of making difficult decisions. Implementation of these action steps resulted in $650 million for the Archdiocese over the last eight years.

“The report we received and feedback from The Counselors provided us with a roadmap. The Archbishop and bishops heard the recommendations, read the report and quickly got on board...We were able to dispose of well over 148 sites, and a lot of it was thanks to the CREs who put the plan together for us. Our achievements can only be described as miraculous.”
Deacon Tom Croke, Former Real Estate Director, Archdiocese of Philadelphia 

St. Charles Borromeo Seminary is being redeveloped: The Archdiocese of Philadelphia no longer needed the 73-acre seminary. The seminary will move to a smaller space and the site will be redeveloped for other uses. 

The Archdiocese is in the process of redeveloping the Cathedral Block, with the developer entering into a longterm ground lease. The Archdiocese will continue to utilize the Cathedra, Chapel and Rectory. The former convent will be demolished. The master developer is constructing a 23-story building with apartments, and retail space. A second tower is expected in phase 2. 

The Team: Team members included: Kathleen Rose, CRE, team leader; P. Barton DeLacy, CRE, Dennis DeSantis, CRE, B. John Dill, CRE, Anthony Levatino, CRE. 

Does your community, university, or local nonprofit need help with a real estate challenge?

For more information, to volunteer for a team, or to refer a project to the CRE® Consulting Corps, please contact Samantha DeKoven (312-329-8431;