|City/Town: • El Portal|
|Location Class: • Religious|
|Built: • 1952 | Abandoned: • 2007|
|Status: • Abandoned • For Sale|
|Photojournalist: • David Bulit|
The Rader Memorial United Methodist Church was founded in 1923 and is one of the oldest congregations in Miami-Dade County. The church in El Portal was built in 1952 and saw great success during the 1950s and 1960s, filling the large sanctuary on Sunday mornings and Sunday school classes were full of children and adults.
The church’s decline came in the late-1960s. As Little Haiti inched closer towards the church, church members began moving away. Between the late-1960s and early-1980s, Rader lost nearly 1,000 members. The remaining congregation had the problem of having such a large building but thankfully, they had funds from trusts and the sale of real estate that provided the church with a steady income that would help for many years.
By the mid-2000s, the church had one remaining trust fund and they had begun taking money out of it with the intent to repay the money back, but the money was never repaid. The church tried increasing pledges to help supplement the trust fund transfers, but it didn’t help much as the money in the account continued to dwindle.
Hurricane Wilma passed through South Florida in 2015, leaving destruction in its wake. The Rader church building had a gas stove that was used to serve coffee and powder soup to those in need following the hurricane. A few days later, canned goods and medical supplies that the church had been storing in the building were distributed throughout the neighborhood. Rader were members of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and as such, was part of a conference-wide property insurance plan. As a result of the 2015 hurricane season, Rader’s insurance rose from $30,000 to $60,000.
The church was out of options and the congregation voting on merging with another congregation, preferably one that was United Methodist. After much deliberation, the congregation merged with Fulford United Methodist Church, located just a few miles north of Rader.
The church building has been vacant since 2007 when the Catholic Archdiocese of Miami bought the property for $3.6 million. The plan was to convert the building into a convent for nuns but never happened due to financial reasons. The archdiocese later had a contract to sell the property to a developer who had plans to convert it into a charter school, but due to opposition from neighboring homeowners, the proposal was denied by the village council.
The property was sold in 2011 for $1.1 million to Mount Olives Church, a Haitian-American Christian church based in North Miami. The property was sold again in 2016 for $3.2 million to Gadinsky and Soriero, through their company The Sanctuary in El Portal LP. The developer had plans to convert it into an affordable mixed-use space with possible tenants including restaurant, retail, and art galleries, advertised as an alternative to Wynwood which become more expensive over the years. With little luck finding tenants, the building was put up for sale in late-2019.