3BR, 2.5BA, Pulpit, Bell Tower, $7.5M
The century-old church has a pulpit, a pew and a bell tower. But instead of a congregation, the historic, red-brick structure has a single occupant, the homeowner. Siamak Akhavan purchased the 20,000-square-foot building five years ago and transformed it into an unusual single-family residence. Now, he's ready to sell. He has put the former Golden Gate Lutheran Church on the market for $7.49 million. "Some people say that it's weird and eerie, but my perspective is that this is a house of the Lord," Marcus Miller, a real estate agent representing Akhavan, told AOL News. "What better place to re-purpose and live than a house that has been blessed. One could say it's a step toward heaven."
The city of San Francisco condemned the church. Attempts to sell it were unsuccessful until Akhavan, an engineer who ran a seismic retrofit company, stepped in and paid $2.25 million for it in 2007. "Face it, in our society, our values are changing and people are spending the Sabbath day differently," said Miller, the son of a Lutheran minister. Akhavan spent nearly $3 million converting the church into a 12-room single-family residence, with three bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, a meditation room at the top of the bell tower, a chef's kitchen and a very large living room. He said the conversion of churches to serve other purposes has become common in many parts of the world. "I travel a lot, and I see a lot of churches being transformed into houses, restaurants, even nightclubs in Europe," Akhavan told AOL News. "In Montreal, I have seen them turned into galleries. There is not as much demand for churches. The congregations hang on to it until they have to do a lot of work, and then they decide it's not worth it." The church is in a neighborhood that is zoned residential, so Akhavan could not turn it into a commercial structure. Converting the space into condominium units would have meant substantially altering the character of the building and damaging such features as the high ceiling of the nave and chancel. So he decided to turn the church into a single-family home and maintain as much of its original character as possible. He hired artists to hand-paint the coffered ceiling and restore the stained-glass windows. He spent $200,000 to put on a new roof and $400,000 to replace windows and doors. He installed skylights, restored wood floors and paneling, and created a six-car garage in one corner of the vast ground floor.