When he saw its price drop, he asked for a tour. “I had absolutely no idea what to do with a church,” Rooney said, “but I really wanted to see it.”
The 137-year-old church in South Minneapolis, a few blocks outside the trendy Uptown neighborhood, had been used by Episcopalian and Lutheran congregations.
In 1927, it became the spiritual home of St. Francis Parish, a Liberal Catholic congregation. But as years passed, the popularity of the Liberal Catholic parish dwindled.
The last service performed in the space was during Easter of 2020. When he toured it that fall, Rooney was in awe of the space.
Rooney, who grew up Roman Catholic, then met with Father Richard Curney, who oversaw the parish’s closing. Curney assured him the space was deconsecrated and ready for its next chapter.
Rooney bought the church for $275,000 in December 2020. Other interested groups had proposed converting the space into apartments or tearing it down entirely, but Rooney was committed to preserving its history.
Six months into what ended up being a two-year project, Rooney said he had second thoughts. “If I would have known how much work and time it would have taken, I’m not sure I would have done it,” he said.
Rooney, a real-estate investor who owns two other short-term rentals as well as some long-term rentals, said the project was a real “leap of faith.”
“This gets my attention in the evening and on the weekends. But I’ve been doing it long enough that I have the best portfolio of ‘help’ to make things happen,” he wrote in an email. “I struggle to screw in a lightbulb, and I’ve always told myself I won’t ever do real estate if it affects how I do my day job. That’s number one, and this is a hobby. But one I really enjoy and I’m pretty good at.”