Former St. Cloud Church Finds New Life Under New Ownership
ST. CLOUD – Harmony Knowles describes herself as “kind of a dreamer.”
So, when the opportunity to buy a historic St. Cloud church property arose, she couldn’t resist the urge to learn more.
The former Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, located at 313 28th Avenue North, went on the real estate market in early November. The over 5,000 sq. ft. property sits on a half-acre lot and includes an attached four-bedroom home that once served as the church’s rectory.
Knowles, a St. Cloud resident, spotted the real estate listing on Facebook and reached out to commercial real estate agent Wendy Hendricks.
Then, she sat with her thoughts for a bit.
“I actually don’t think I reconnected with (Hendricks) for about three weeks after that,” Knowles said. “But the church had been in the back of my mind the entire time. I didn’t go look at the property during that time, but since it had been on my mind, I thought I really needed to go check it out as a possibility for a lot of roaming ideas I have.”
“If I keep thinking about something – if it keeps popping back into my mind – then there’s a reason for that,” she added.
Once Knowles finally toured the 90-year-old building, she fell in love. The sale was finalized on December 30 – which was unusually quick, according to Hendricks.
“A commercial real estate sale can take a long time,” Hendricks said. “And people sometimes fight over the littlest things. There was none of that in this case. Everyone was so respectful of one another and worked together so well. (The seller) was very supportive of (Knowles) and it just all fell into place.”
Hendricks says the church generated a lot of buzz from potential buyers in a short period of time.
“It’s just a very iconic building on a very visible corner, there on 3rd (Street),” she added. “I had so many calls when I listed it from people who told me they’d been looking at that building for years. (Knowles) was very smart and moved quickly – because there was a ton of interest.”
While Knowles has already rented out the four-bedroom home, the future of the church remains somewhat of a mystery. Knowles owns Lake George Foster Homes, a foster care and supportive living services company for adults with developmental disabilities and mental health issues, and says she’s keen on turning the church into a creative, multi-use space geared toward individuals with special needs.
“I’m kind of a dreamer,” Knowles said. “My brain runs from one fun idea to the next, but after getting in there and feeling the vibe, I’m thinking it could be a healing center of some sort that people with disabilities are involved with. I know there are some “mind-body-spirit” focused places in St. Cloud, but specifically having people with disabilities helping run something like that could be really fun."
Knowles says her foster care clients have taken a very active role in helping her generate ideas for the space.
“Maybe they have all of these little magical ideas they’ve never been able to explore,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a work place. We have enough work facilities for (individuals with disabilities.) This could be something interesting and fun for them.”
Knowles says her family has been weighing in, too.
“My husband plays music with some bands here in town and they want to jam out and hear what the acoustics are like in here,” she said. “My kids - they want to do a movie theatre. They said, ‘what if teenagers in the community don’t have places to go, and we set up a theatre and everyone can just camp out in here!’ They might be outlandish, but I’ve got to pull in all these fun ideas that everyone keeps saying and then think about what’s realistic.”
Hendricks describes the sale as “magical.”
“This is the type of building that has a legacy and a history,” Hendricks said. “So, you want that to continue on. And Harmony is so caring, and has such a big heart – it’s nice to see someone who is so well-known and loved in St. Cloud carrying on the legacy of this building.”
“It really was a Christmas miracle.”
The seller of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church declined to be named or participate in this story.