By Charlotte Aguilar
Once again, it pays to look at commercial real estate listings to learn about potential future development of a prime piece of Bellaire property.
The stately and historic ChristChurch Presbyterian sanctuary and educational center, spanning 2 acres at 5001 Bellaire Blvd., on the southeast corner of South Rice Avenue, is listed for sale as a “development opportunity,” with a strong suggestion of retail or medical uses despite the fact that the property is now zoned residential.
Marketed by Fritsche Anderson Realty Partners, the listing notes “Adjacent new development at Bellaire Blvd. and South Rice Ave. will stimulate continued development in the area, and particularly on the subject site.” The Bellaire Town Center across South Rice, which was developed as a retail property in the 1950s, is in the middle of a major updating and expansion that has landed it several new restaurants, medical offices, and health and fitness businesses.
But that use would require a zoning change for the church block. Under Bellaire zoning regulations, its R4 designation permits medium density single-family dwellings with a minimum lot size of 50 by 100 feet, or public parks, with schools and churches as specific uses.
Another intriguing feature in the sales brochure, accessible at fritscheanderson.com, is the description of “simple ingress and egress” on what is now a relatively lightly used church property on one of Bellaire’s busiest intersections, which is traveled frequently by city emergency response vehicles headquartered less than two blocks away.
Condit Elementary School is directly to its south, across the street from the church’s popular preschool.
In a message on its website, ccpres.org, the church explains that the congregation decided in June to attempt the sale, contingent upon receiving enough to build a new sanctuary and learning center where its Fellowship Hall now stands, across the street at 4925 Bellaire Blvd.
“A new building will be more efficient and will allow us to finally house all of our ministries under one roof — including our ChristChurch Leaning Center,” the message reads. The “hope” is that the selling price will be large enough for the church to create endowments to fund its service projects or to support maintenance of the new facility, according to the statement.
No price is listed.
As the city’s oldest church, it features a Bellaire Historical Marker, which describes the origin of the church in 1911 as the Bellaire Union Congregational Church, holding services in the original schoolhouse that became Condit and the streetcar terminal “pavilion,” across from the church’s current site.
In 1919, First Presbyterian Church of Houston responded to a petition from the community to establish a church in Bellaire, and the first building was erected later that year. A brick sanctuary first appeared in 1942, with the current 1,000-seat sanctuary completed in 1957.
At its peak, the church had more than 1,700 members in the 1960s. Bellaire Presbyterian merged with Braeburn Presbyterian to become ChristChurch in 2006.