Book Review: Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Regional Development

0
308

religious buildings might be most prevalent by relying on the concentric ring model that has served sociologists and geographers effectively for other aspects of land use change. Many of these abandoned churches and/or religious schools are located in the former ethnic inner-suburban neighborhoods where the congregation who attended the church or parochial school during the time of its greatest viability have moved out to the outer suburbs and beyond, and the dwindling congregation can no longer afford to maintain such a large structure. The next seven chapters are more specialized than the first two in demonstrating techniques that might be used to assess the viability of converting the religious land use into something more secular that would range from nonprofit and public uses, such as organizations designed to help the less advantaged in the community, libraries, and arts and recreational centers to private uses such as apartments and condominiums (both subsidized and market driven), office spaces, and commercial uses such as garages, storage facilities, and even brew pubs and nightclubs. The 10th chapter (“From ‘Temples of Consumption’ to ‘Temples of Faith’”) by Ledebur and Vyakaranam) turns the tables by examining the conversion of vacant commercial and public spaces, such as strip malls and even the arena originally built for the Houston Rockets, into churches. The former Houston arena is now the home of Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, claimed to be America’s largest megachurch with over 30,000 members. While the chapter is short, it is clear that adaptive reuse cuts both ways—a religious building can be adaptively reused, which is the main emphasis of the book, but also abandoned buildings of many types can be converted into churches as well. Chapter 11 is titled “Conclusion” and indeed its authors (Simons and Seo) do a good job of summarizing what has come before. But that chapter ends on p. 217 and there are 166 pages more in the book. Chapters 12 through 21 (written by a variety of authors) are case studies of adaptively reused churches and religious properties replete with photographs and data on costs and revenues (where available and appropriate) for a variety of uses. These conversions included townhouse units (Cleveland Heights, Ohio); a performing arts center (Queens, New York); a rock climbing gym (Dayton, Ohio); residential condominiums (South Boston, Massachusetts); a recording studio, an art gallery, and a performing arts center (Buffalo, New York); a planned residential development from the sale of 20 separate church properties (St. Louis, Missouri); a street conversion project in a historic district (Fayetteville, Arkansas); a technical high school (Cleveland, Ohio); two schools in central Arkansas (Little Rock and Clinton, Arkansas); and lofts and a mixed-used development (Albuquerque, New Mexico). The question that remains is, to whom is this book directed? It would make an excellent supplemental text in courses dealing with real estate, cost accounting, and business-related topics, such as economic redevelopment. It would be less useful as a text in urban geography or urban sociology, but might serve as useful supplemental material. The book is at its best when the generalities are dispensed with and the authors get down to brass tacks because each case is fundamentally different. Although it is important to know funding sources and how to assess highest and best use in a general sense, it is also crucial that the case for the adaptive reuse be presented well to those who will be most impacted. This is to assure that the land use is most congruent with the desires of the community and the original sacred purpose of the church or religious school.