It has provided spiritual comfort for more than a century, but the future of the Mount Manresa Jesuit Retreat House in Fort Wadsworth may now be left to fate —
its 10 acres of chapels, gardens and grottos have gone on the market for $15.9 million. The news has sparked concern that the property, which has the most wide-open zoning, could become the latest in townhouse developments.
“It’s a place where people can go to reach out to God and reflect on their life so it would be nice to keep it that way,” said Conrad Schweizer, a former board member and the owner of Schweizer Nurseries, who spent much of his youth on the grounds where his mother worked as a cook. “But I assume it’s going to go to the best use or the most profitable use of the land, there’s no question about that. So whatever amount of units per square foot they can put in, that’s what they’re going to do.” The New York Province of the Society for Jesus announced in June that Manresa — along with the St. Ignatius Retreat House in Manhasset, L.I — would close by next summer so the Jesuits could revamp their mission to focus on ministries for young adults and Spanish speakers. St. Ignatius is also on the market, listed at $49 million, according to the Rev. Vincent Cooke, a Society spokesman. Cooke said the sales agreement for Manresa — which is being marketed by Michael Schneider, first vice president of sales for Massey Knakal Reality in Manhattan —
will be predicated on the new owner taking possession of the land after June 1, 2013, when the Jesuits take their leave. He said suggestions for the site have ranged from college dorms to healthcare facilities to residential development. The existing buildings will be left by the Jesuits, but there will be nothing in the sales agreement preventing new ownership from demolishing them.
“Right now, we’re testing the market,” he said. “What were trying to do is to see who is actually interested in the property and to find out what is realistic here. Our preference is to get a new owner who wants to preserve the property, but you never know what people will do.” The land, located at 239 Fingerboard Rd., actually dates back to 1860 when a Mr. Browne sold it to Louis H. Meyer, one of the first presidents of Staten Island Savings Bank. Meyer joined an exclusive group who established estates around the borough,]
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