A couple of years ago, The Globe and Mail featured a story called Vancouver churches unlocking their land value, noting:
Urban churches are sitting on some of the priciest real estate in the province, and they’re using the situation to their advantage.
Churches are wisely making their land holdings work for them by partnering with developers to boost revenues and, in some cases, provide affordable housing.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve visited some of the church sites that are under development, just to see what state they are in.
Here’s a brief overview.
Co:Here Housing Community
The Co:Here Housing Community – a four-storey, affordable housing complex with 26 self-contained units – is going up fast at the corner of 1st and Victoria. Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony last June, pastor TIm Dickau of Grandview Calvary Baptist Church said:
In various places in the Bible, we find this vision of a society where everyone has a home – which is an especially significant dream, given that the Hebrew people in the Bible were for long periods landless and homeless. One of the marks of the early church was that they took those abandoned and homeless folk in the Roman empire and invited them to live with them.
The Co:Here housing project is part of this ongoing story and shares this same vision. From the time we began discussing how to utilize the lot we purchased next to our parking lot back in 2002, the focus has been on providing a home for those in our neighbourhood who are without a home, a stable home.
To facilitate a sense of community, equality, mutual care and companionship, the building includes 2,335 sq ft of community space (kitchen, living room, dining room and meditation / quiet room); 2,690 sq ft of outdoor space for urban agriculture; and 340 sq ft of office space for its care-centred staff and organizational partners. Of particular importance is the arrangement of self-contained apartments around ‘pods’ of shared space on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors.
Occupancy of the Co:Here building is expected early this fall.
Aspen Green Community
Aspen Green will join the not-so-small world of seniors housing which takes up the full block below (east of) Rupert Street between 4th and 5th, with connected projects north of 4th and south of 5th.
Like Grandview Calvary / Salsbury / Co:Here, Aspen Green is affiliated with the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada (CBWC) (though it is not tied to any one particular church).
Here is the way it is described on the CBWC Foundation site:
Beulah Garden Homes (BG Homes) was founded in 1951 to provide affordable housing for seniors. . . .
The community is currently made up of the Cedars Assisted Living (opened in 2008), Beechwood Residence (opened in 2006), Charles Bentall Residence (opened in 1991) and the Rupert Residence (opened in 1964). After many years of diligent work and prayers, construction has begun on Aspen Green, which will be the newest seniors’ residence to join the community.
Aspen Green will offer 46 two-bedroom and eight one-bedroom residences. The main roof framing is now finished and the project is scheduled to be completed this November
With a group of local housing advocates having released An Affordable Housing Plan for BC April 10, this is a good time to take note of the major role already being played by Christian non-profits.
Along with Beulah Garden Homes, groups such as More Than a Roof, Baptist Housing, Elim Village, 127 Society for Housing, Salvation Army Senior Care, Roman Catholic Homes, Fair Haven Seniors Housing, Broadway Pentecostal Lodge, St. Jude’s Anglican Home and others provide thousands of housing units for seniors and vulnerable people.
The Vancouver Sun notes: “A group of local housing advocates is calling for an annual investment of $1.8 billion – paid for by Ottawa, the province and the non-profit ‘community housing’ sector [italics mine] – over the next 10 years to help resolve BC’s lack of affordable housing.”
Vancouver Christian School
Noting that there are currently no large Protestant high schools in Vancouver or Burnaby, those who run Vancouver Christian School say:
Much like the families who founded Vancouver Christian School back in the 1930s and 40s, the current VCS community has been praying for a permanent Vancouver home for our K – 12 students for more than 10 years.
About two years ago, we began a process with the City of Vancouver, applying for a development permit for our school site, on Mons Drive [between Rupert and Boundary, several blocks south, and up the hill, from Grandview Highway]. Much prayer, hard work, volunteer time and expertise was invested in the endeavour, with the end result that we received approval for our permit in May of 2014.
From a February 23 report:
While all of us have been busy dealing with the weather challenges of the last two months, significant work has been happening on the Mons Drive site. Fast forward through the dramatic demolition and steady pace of clean-up, and today the project is well into the excavation and foundation-building phase.
The new kindergarten to grade 12 school is projected to be completed by the end of the year. In January, K – 6 will begin in the new building, while high school will continue at Carver Christian High School in Burnaby; in September 2018, there will be a fully operational K – 12 school, including Carver students. Go here for a six-minute virtual tour of what the new facility might look like.
Central Presbyterian Church
Apparently it will still be just over a year before the congregation of Central Presbyterian Church will be able to move back to its old haunts, but the construction is already several floors high. And when church members do begin to meet in the new building on Thurlow near Davie in the West End, it will feel very different from the old one.
Here is what Frank Stirk wrote on this site about the project:
When construction is completed . . . a 22-storey multi-use building will occupy the site. Central will move into a three-storey podium along with a daycare, various community facilities and commercial retail space. Above the podium will be a tower containing 168 market rental units.
Bosa will use the revenues from these units to fund 42 social-housing units for seniors that the church – the project developer – will oversee through a non-profit housing society. The project will be entirely self-funded.
“Bosa Properties,” [architect Gregory] Henriquez said during the ceremony, “is producing a benefit for this community which is unprecedented in the history of Vancouver – and unprecedented in my 30-year career of building buildings.”
Faced with an aging structure well past its prime, Smith says his congregation and the other two that share the space – Galilee Korean Presbyterian Church and Christ Alive Community Church – agreed that some radical action was needed.
Go here for the full article.
Church of God in Vancouver
The Church of God in Vancouver (originally known as South Cambie Gospel Hall) met in a modest church building at the corner of 60th and Cambie from 1958 until a couple of years ago.
Lloyd Mackey wrote this shortly before the move:
Church for Vancouver talked to Kevin Jones, a retired British businessman immigrant who devotes a fair amount of energy to helping [the church] through its transition. The fact is, he notes, the church has been sitting on a valuable piece of property. “We did not want to move, though we were offered vast amounts of money to do so.”
[A] press release describes the pathway the church will take over the next few years, as a result of negotiations with the developer that acquired their gospel hall and its property. It notes:
In the next few months our current site will be demolished and a new development of rentable condos will be built on the 60th and 61st block of Cambie, including our community church which will have a beautiful, modern space built into the complex.
We want to reassure the people of the South Cambie, Marpole and Langara neighbourhood, and further afield, we are still going to be committed to making sure that the redevelopment is utilized to build a stronger and more supportive community in what is becoming a new urban hub for Vancouver.
We’re really excited about what’s happening in the Cambie Corridor and how the South Cambie area is developing. We are committed to being a community church – building up and supporting the neighbourhood; providing a space for people to meet, events for people to get involved in together and services that enrich the community life of the area.
For more of the story, including the church’s unique background, go here.
The church will be part of the new building, on the ground floor at the corner of 61st and Cambie (that is, one block south of its old location).
Lynn Valley United Church
The North Vancouver congregation of Lynn Valley United Church moved into its brand new building just before Christmas, after having been in property development mode for the last couple of years. The church was featured in the Globe and Mail article mentioned above:
Lynn Valley United Church has partnered with Marcon Developments to redevelop into a smaller church building and transform the current parking lot into a four-storey, 75-unit condo building.
The 65-year-old building was in need of repair, and with a shrinking congregation, it had to reinvent itself. The church set up a redevelopment committee that approached the developer, and together they figured out a plan to build a new church facility and create an endowment fund for the congregation. For Marcon development manager Nic Paolella, the idea to partner with a church was unusual, but intriguing. . .
District of North Vancouver Councillor Robin Hicks attended the official opening earlier this year and said:
Transforming an aging church into a magnificent community facility and at the time providing affordable homes to the young, elderly and disabled is indeed a feat to be proud of.
The District has a policy of retaining and sustaining institutional use for the long-term benefits of its residents. I think this has certainly been achieved through this development; a win-win partnership.
Go here for the full statement.
City Life Church
One church property that will not be developed right away is that of the former Westpointe Christian Church in Kitsilano, just east of MacDonald on 12th. In this case, the lack of development is good news, given that it had been sold to developers by Westpointe.
Several other churches are moving towards development. Just a couple of days ago the Vancouver Courier ran this story about Corpus Christi Catholic Church in the Killarney area: Church sale: leveraging land value to pay for a new school.
Encouraging to see the Christian churches providing affordable housing. I’d also like to see churches and some of these developments offering amenities/space for art and culture, ie theatre, workshop space etc.