By Pat Ciarrocchi
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s financial troubles have forced the auction and sale of some of its prime properties.
Eyewitness News has learned exclusively that St. Joseph’s University has a hand-shake agreement on the table to buy the Archbishop’s Residence at 5700 City Avenue for an estimated $10 million. Sources tell us that discussions became more serious in July and now, St. Joe’s and the Archdiocese are moving closer to a final deal.
St. Joseph’s University has had an explosive expansion along City Avenue in recent years. In June, 2011, after a $152 million campaign, the university purchased the 38-acre Episcopal Academy property directly across from its main campus and named it for philanthropist, James J. Maguire.
But inside Catholic circles, it’s been no secret, that if the Archbishop’s residence became available, on the west side of Cardinal Avenue, the 8-point-7 acre estate with its 16 room mansion would be a logical acquisition.
In December, Archbishop Charles Chaput put the estate on the market. In a one-on-one with Eyewitness News Anchor Pat Ciarrocchi, he said the Archdiocese couldn’t afford it.
“It’s a large house with a lot of property,” said Archbishop Chaput, ” and a few people living there. I can live somewhere else. So we just can’t afford it.”
Sources close to the deal tell Eyewitness News that the purchase price is $10 million, after an initial offer of $6 million was rejected. CBS3 has also learned the money for the purchase is to be donated privately. The Vatican needs to approve the final deal.
This week, it was announced that the Villa St. Joseph by the Sea — the summer retreat for retired priests and church officials in Ventnor, NJ would be auctioned September 15th. On June 30th, Archbishop Chaput had close that property assessed at $6.2 million.
In a statement, the Archbishop said: “We just can’t afford to maintain and hold assets like Villa St. Joseph by the Sea and my residence. Holding onto these properties at this time would be inconsistent with the mission of our church.”
The first of four open houses for Villa St. Joseph by the Sea is set for this Sunday at Noon. They will continue each Sunday until auction day, September 15th.
The sale of the properties comes as the Archdiocese deals with a now $6 million deficit and $11 million in legal bills from the grand jury investigation and trials involving clergy sex abuse.