With declining church attendance and rising real estate values in Vancouver, the sale of church property has been accelerating in recent years.
A recent case is the Bethlehem Lutheran Church, located in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, near Main Street and East 15th Avenue. The church has just been put up for sale; and with a 1.45 FSR, the land could allow for more than 41,000 sq. ft. of real estate in one of Vancouver’s prime housing markets.
Although no formal price has been set, a call for submissions to purchase has attracted 90 distinct bids from developers and a handful of other church groups.
Citing a confidentiality agreement, estimates on the worth of the property could not be disclosed. However, according to a Colliers International Metro Vancouver LandShare Report in 2016, the values per buildable square foot in the Main Street corridor were in the $250 to $380 range. For reference, a 15,000 sq. ft. site at Main Street and East 3rd Avenue sold last year for $17 million – though, the land did have a higher-density commercial zoning.
The constantly rising value of Vancouver real estate has made the sale of church properties for millions of dollars increasingly common. The currently listed Korean United Church along Vancouver’s Kingsway corridor has a pending offer at $8.8 million; and a Coquitlam church on a 71,000 sq. ft. lot listed at $4.7 million.
The amount of money involved is definitely an influencing factor; but many churches have seen this as an opportunity to downsize and use profits for community good.
The Dunbar Ryerson United Church’s plan to partner with Wall Financial Corporation for a large residential project has stirred some opposition. Despite this, the church is still dedicated to the project, and plans to use the proceeds to rehabilitate their stone church, as well as build a new community centre.
In the past two decades, at least two dozen Vancouver churches have sold their property; and eleven church properties have been demolished since 2000. Whether it is ‘right’ to demolish or sell church properties is up for debate. However, with the rising real estate values in Vancouver, there will always be developers snapping up these deals.