We’re now located at 1201 Riversdale Road, Box Hill South. 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 sold our church and bought another one with plans for substantial further development.
Why did we move?
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 50-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 additional options for the future.
What happens to the old site?
In October 2018, the Station Street site (including the church and manse) was purchased for $29.5 million by a large private company, Early Light International (Holdings) Limited, which is headquartered in Hong Kong.
As part of the contract of sale we negotiated a ‘licence to remain’ at Station Street for 18 months, which has now been extended for a further 2 years, until March 2022. This will allow us to use the site as a second ministry centre for some activities that are not suited to the Church or Chapel on Riversdale Road, and during the second construction phase at Riversdale Road.
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.
We’re planning to demolish the old hall, kindergarten and kitchens at 1201-1205 Riversdale Road and build a new three level building which provides accommodation for the congregation, and its staff and ministries, along with the Cantonese and Mandarin communities and other partners from the Victorian District Church and Lutheran Education (LCAVD/LEVNT).
It is difficult to accurately forecast the completion date of this Project, as this will depend on several factors beyond our control, including receipt of a planning permit from Whitehorse Council, and then the tendering process and final construction timetable (STCA). We will update this site as further information becomes available.