by Nicholas Lynch
The ‘conversion’ of former churches into lofts and condominiums has become an important feature of the urban real estate market. Nicholas Lynch is an urban cultural geographer exploring the practices and processes of adaptive reuse and housing sustainability in both Canada and the United Kingdom. With a focus on the re-development of redundant institutional properties (including former spaces of worship), Dr. Lynch’s work investigates issues of gentrification, reuse and religious change in the context of the post-secular and post-industrial city.
In recent years, numerous mainline Christian denominations throughout Canada have sold their places of worship in the real estate market in response to declines in religious membership and participation. At the same time, a growing demand for creative residential spaces by a group of the new middle class encourages the redevelopment of churches into upscale lofts, a practice connected to but divergent from the post-industrial loft living made popular in cities like New York. Church lofts are an emergent form of housing and the latest frontier in the remaking of material, cultural and religious landscapes in the post-secular city – a context where novel forms of secularity take shape alongside new expressions of religion. Rebuilt as unique but exclusive places to live, church lofts are part of a secular upscaling of the central city, a process that increasingly remakes the city as a place of capital reinvestment, middle-class colonization and socio-secular upgrading.