We’re relocating to Riversdale Road, Box Hill South, in 2019. Read on to find out more!
What’s this all about?
In May 2015, St Paul’s Church Council asked a small group of members (the Strategic Property Group, or SPG) to examine the emerging difficulties arising from the exploding property developments around the current church, particularly the problem with parking. Three and a half years later we have sold our church and bought another one, with plans for substantial further development.
What are the issues with the current location?
The SPG started investigating. A survey of the congregation found that worshippers were already finding it more difficult to travel along Station Street and find a convenient park. High-rise property developments were underway all around, with more skyscrapers and other developments currently planned or underway in Box Hill. The parking and access issues were inevitably going to get worse.
Despite the issues we were enthusiastic about the witness of our location in central Box Hill. Discussions with advisors and architects indicated the only way St Paul’s could provide adequate parking for up to 100 cars was to partner with a developer and build a high-rise complex, incorporating the church sanctuary on the ground and mezzanine levels.
But problems started to emerge with various risks, owner’s corporation concerns, potential disruption to ministry during the several years of construction, and continued access problems to the car park. The SPG asked consulting traffic engineers how we could possibly resolve some of the issues, and their answer was: you may have to face the fact that this will be a difficult site for a church.
How did you find a new church?
The SPG had explored the option to relocate, but found no viable options despite inspecting eight other sites within the Box Hill area. And then, in October 2016, they heard the St James Uniting Church site at 1201-1205 Riversdale Road may be coming onto the market.
Amazingly, the church was in the Box Hill area and included a 60-space car park opposite the church as well as nearby on-street parking. Other things just seemed to fall into place.
- The St James church exterior was heritage listed, meaning it was less attractive to competing developers (confirmed by valuations).
- Our own site underwent two favourable changes to local zoning, meaning we could afford to move and redevelop the St James site to our own requirements.
- In October 2017, our congregation voted by an overwhelming 90% to pursue a relocation option. This was also supported by the Chinese Lutheran Church, with whom we share partnership in our Mandarin mission in Box Hill.
What were the details of the purchase?
Our prayers were answered in March 2018 when we received an invitation to submit an offer to buy the St James site off-market. A few weeks of negotiations followed, and we eventually purchased the property for $6.55 million. Contracts were exchanged, and final settlement occurred in October 2018.
Remarkably, we were also able to buy the neighbouring property at 1207 Riversdale Road at auction – giving us options for transition space after we vacate the current Station Street site, and before the whole new development is completed.
Have you sold the current site?
Yes! In October 2018, the Station Street site (including the church and manse) was purchased for $29.5 million by a large private company called Early Light International (Holdings) Limited, which is headquartered in Hong Kong.
The settlement period is four months – but this doesn’t mean we have to move out in January. As part of the contract of sale we have negotiated a ‘licence to remain’ at Station Street until the end of 2019, which fits well with our timing. This is a shorter settlement than we expected, and gives us a large saving in interest – so it’s good news.
We don’t know for sure what the buyer will do with the site, but it’s likely it will be developed into a mixture of retail and residential apartments.
Given you sold the manse, did you buy another one?
As if all that property news wasn’t enough, in October 2018 we also purchased a new manse in Blackburn. It too settles in January, just a few days before Pastor Neville and Sue Otto arrive to join us at St Paul’s.
So what’s next?
We’re planning to move into our new church at Riversdale Road prior to Christmas next year, and will soon appoint the project architect for refurbishment of the church and major redevelopment of the rest of the site. Meanwhile we are continuing to work on the master plan.
Some people will be excited, some sorrowful, some overwhelmed, and most probably a mixture of all three. We’ve been talking about this for a long time, but it now feels very real. Praise God for His continued guidance and care of us, and for the gift of each other as we unite together in preparation for farewelling our church home and moving to a new one.