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 (known as 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 years later we have bought another church with plans for substantial further development, and put our own church on the market.
What are the issues with the current location?
This location, though highly valued by the congregation for its position in the heart of the community, has become more and more problematic over the past few years as Box Hill has developed considerably, causing problems for parking and access. In 2015, the SPG found that more than 90% of worshippers drive to church, and were already finding it more difficult to travel along Station Street and find a convenient park. Meanwhile high-rise property developments were underway all around, not to mention another 11 skyscrapers and other developments currently planned or underway in Box Hill. The parking and access issues were inevitably going to get worse.
Wasn’t there any way to fix those problems?
Despite the issues we were (and remain) enthusiastic about the witness of our location in central Box Hill, and together with advisors and architects the SPG looked at several options for redevelopment of the current site at 709-713 Station Street. Extensive discussions indicated the only way St Paul’s could afford to provide adequate parking for up to 100 cars was to partner with a developer and build a high-rise complex – incorporating our church sanctuary and other spaces on the ground and mezzanine levels, and parking in four basement levels below.
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. A solution to the latter was to enter the church from the rear lane, but this was already a potential choke point. The SPG asked consulting traffic engineers how we could possibly resolve the issue, 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 it was in the Box Hill area, and included a 60-space car park opposite the church as well as nearby on-street parking. The SPG arranged an inspection, and as soon as they walked into the sanctuary they knew this was a definite possibility.
Why did you end up choosing this option?
Over the past three years, throughout this journey, Church Council and the SPG have been amazed at the number of ‘God moments’ that have happened – things that just seemed to fall into place.
- The St James church exterior was heritage listed, meaning it was less attractive to competing developers.
- Our own site underwent two changes to local zoning, meaning we could afford to move and redevelop the St James site to our own requirements.
- An architect prepared an exciting concept for redevelopment of the St James site into a modern and welcoming hub just down the road from central Box Hill.
- 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.
Where are things at now?
The SPG prepared a comprehensive business case and application for bridging finance from the LLL (the Lutheran Church of Australia’s financial institution), which was promptly approved. We then waited patiently for the Uniting Church to list the St James site for sale, and prayers were answered in March 2018 when we received an invitation to submit an offer to buy the property off-market.
A few weeks of negotiations followed, and we were able to reach agreement at a price which was within our budget. Contracts were exchanged, with final settlement due 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.
So what’s next?
We have listed our Station Street site for sale, and the SPG is preparing to appoint project architects for renovation and refurbishment of the St James church (Stage 1) and then redevelopment of the rest of the site (Stage 2). We expect to move into our new home some time in the second half of 2019, while the remaining construction continues for another one to two years.
There will be a sense of loss as the congregation prepares to farewell its beloved building. But the people of St Paul’s are excited about their move to the former St James, and are looking to the future with faith and hope – anticipating the opportunities that lie ahead as they continue their service and mission to the community of Box Hill and beyond.
We praise God for lighting the way as we continue this journey!