Religious retreat looking for buyer in deep Southern Illinois

Efforts continue to market one of the more unusual properties in the Midwest, a getaway in deep Southern Illinois, that one broker calls a scenic wonder. San Damiano Retreat Center in Golconda is nestled along the Ohio River, a 167-acre, mostly wooded spread whose location is both an attraction and a deterrent when it comes to marketability.

It has been for sale well over a year and recently was reduced in price. “We got the listing in December 2019, and we had an appraisal performed in January 2020. At that time, it was for $2.3 million. That included all the grounds and the mineral and riparian rights along the Ohio River. We have actually lowered our price to $1.95 million to drive the interest and move the needle,” Mike Durbin said. Durbin is the listing broker, along with colleague Wayne Barber, the founding co-principal of BARBERMurphy, the largest commercial real estate agency in Southern Illinois.

Durbin is attempting to find a buyer on behalf of the retreat’s owner, Catholic Shrine Pilgrimage Inc., the organization behind San Damiano Retreat Center and Golden Frontier Tours, which leads pilgrimages around the world, via cruises and tours.

The center was established and built in 1990 and is still operational, although usage has mostly gone down during the last several years, Durbin said. Perhaps ironically, occupancy swung upward a bit after the pandemic arrived, perhaps because people were wanting to get away from the chaos. “Luckily, 2020 was good for them toward the second half, where people were wanting to get away, were wanting to be in a remote area,” Durbin said.

To gauge interest, Durbin said he reached out to quite a few different groups, including those in the nearby Shawnee National Forest area that had successful businesses in camping and cabin rental, the idea being that the retreat could be a perfect extension of an existing business, or perhaps for a winery or recreational destination.

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