A New Home for St. John's Vancouver
A New Home for St. John's Vancouver
For the past five years, we have been meeting in the Oakridge Adventist Church (OAC) seeking always to advance the vision God has given to our church — to glorify Him and to be transformed by the gospel of Christ, to establish gospel outreach and open doors for newcomers, and to become effective servants of Christ through deeply connected communal relationships. We were graciously welcomed as tenants by OAC and the facility has served us well, however, there has been a growing desire to find a church ‘home’.
Although we can proceed with our mission regardless of our facility, the Trustees and Building Committee believe that permanent facilities are worth pursuing in order for St. John’s Vancouver to fully support the gospel ministries within our church and within the city of Vancouver. We play a regional, national, and international role in the Anglican Church. Gaining a permanent home would allow us more fully to step into this role. We would be able to facilitate gospel ministry long-term and develop a rooted, local witness to Christ. Though our relationship with OAC has been a blessing, there is no long-term guarantee that we will be able to continue renting from them. We operate on short-term lease agreements, with the current one ending in 2017. We also pay a significant amount in rent (almost $200,000 per year) that could instead be invested in the future ministry of the St. John’s community.
A permanent church home would also provide us with increased flexibility, time, and space for hospitality. We have strived to be hospitable with our current facilities, and, have experienced God’s grace in the midst of these circumstances. However, we have also encountered numerous limitations on a weekly basis that have hindered our ability to provide for our growing ministries and congregation.
Even though we desire all of these things, we are aware of the concerns that may arise regarding Vancouver’s difficult real estate market. We hope to openly discuss and address these concerns at future building update meetings. We will continue to seek God’s wisdom as we walk down this path and we ask that you join us on the journey.
Don Bennett, Dick Richards, David Howard, Bruce Ledingham, Gillian Fullerton, James Klukas, John McKay, Gordon Watts, and Norah Johnston.
Existing church properties have emerged as the most cost-effective and practical solutions. These properties are already zoned for church use and tend to be valued slightly below full market value. In addition, the existing church owners may be sympathetic to our cause and we are not faced with competing bids with developers. These three factors lead to the preferred status of the option of finding an existing church.
Oakridge Adventist Church has been very gracious to us and continues to be a cooperative partner. However, they have their own ministries that they want to grow and they feel they need the facility.
There isn’t much out there. We will need around 50,000 square foot lot (this can be lower with a denser development). There are many small church properties, and developers have deeper pockets. God continues to lead us and teach us His way during this time.
Our church attendance has been very steady over the past 8 years and averages close to 600 people between all 4 services on a Sunday. Our Sunday attendance stats show a low of 400 and high of 800+. These can be seen as lower over say summer holidays and higher on special Sundays’ (Easter, Christmas).
Regardless of location or format, the permanent facility must have certain space programming for it to meet the requirements of our church. After consulting with the different ministry leaders, we compiled the following list of facility needs:
3. Sunday School Rooms
4. Youth / Meeting Rooms
6. Meal area
7. Gathering Place
8. Office Space
9. Green Space
In order to achieve these requirements, detailed space programming has been conducted and concludes that approximately 25,000 square feet of finished building is required. This space can be single story, multiple story, conventional (church building), or unconventional (warehouse, mixed use, land assembly), but the square footage requirement is constant.
Non-conventional options have been looked at and have consistently presented overwhelming difficulty. Unlike other churches in the city, St. John’s brings no property to the table. Furthermore, developers will cooperate only if the City of Vancouver would give some concession to the developer as a result. We have been advised (repeatedly) that the City will not provide this.
Some churches in Vancouver have partnered with developers whereby they get a new building in combination with a development and an injection of capital (cash). The major difference between us and those churches, is that those churches bring property to the equation. We do not have any asset to bring to this kind of arrangement. We have approached a few developers, but they have been clear that the City of Vancouver will not recognize a church as any public amenity – therefore, we would be buying in as any other strata holder.
We are currently renting a 24,000-square foot space which we consider has placed constraints on our ministries. If we had exclusive use of the facility, then it could be made to function closer to our requirements. However, when renting or leasing, there are definite limitations on any improvements or adjustments one would make since the facility is not owned by ourselves. In addition, there is the uncertainty of longevity in a rental situation. Finally, it is very difficult (near impossible) to find the type of space that we are looking for. Ultimately, it is our vision that we would establish a permanent home that would serve the Gospel in Vancouver for several decades.
The target area for a permanent facility is bordered by Dunbar on the west, Main Street on the east, Broadway on the north, and 57th Avenue on the south. Facilities located outside of this target area have and will be investigated if other criteria are met. Proximity to transit, cycling, and walking access is also considered. All types of spaces (conventional / unconventional) have been examined within the target area and beyond.
Yes. We have focused much of the current efforts within the boundary area, however facilities located outside of this target area have and will be investigated if other criteria are met. The purpose of the boundary area is to help to serve the existing congregation and remain in proximity to accessible transit, cycling, and walking. When we moved to Oakridge we knew that this increased the walking distance from bus stops (Oak Street, Cambie, 41st) compared with the Granville street location. We hope to find a location that continues to keep walkability and accessibility to transit for many to come to our church.
But David Short is a hipster! Seriously, it is important to reach the younger generation in our city. However, one of the things that sets us apart from many other churches is our healthy cross-section of ages and cultures; we have young families, singles, and an older generation.
In addition, there are several church plants in Vancouver that are already targeting the hipster crowd (and we wish them success, and we support some of these churches with our resources). Finally, St. John’s is a church with a Vision and purpose that is larger than a single demographic group. We want to challenge ourselves to reach all people in our City.
Preliminary project estimates place the price of the permanent facility (fully developed) at a range between $15-25 million. Some limited modeling has been conducted to verify whether this funding level is achievable. Confirmation of the ability of the congregation to support this funding will be undertaken.
Based on borrowing $7 million, St. John’s would need to raise between $8 million and $16 million in cash (pledges or other) from the congregation.
Over the last four years, on average, our total rental costs are $200,000 per year (including OAC, Burrard office space, room rental for Ekklessia at UBC and organ practice at Kerrisdale Presbyterian). Renovation costs at OAC were approximately $80,000 when we first moved in.
Annual Average Rental Breakdown:
Other $5K/yr (Ekklessia UBC /Organ practice Kerrisdale Presbyterian + extra OAC rentals)
Preliminary project estimates place the price of the permanent facility (fully developed) at a range between $15-25 million. This could vary slightly depending on the land size and location. To construct a multi-use building of 25,000 square feet will cost approximately $7.5 million, leaving a budget of $12.5 million for land. The actual cost of land in Vancouver for a facility of this size is higher than $12.5 million, however it is hoped that we can identify a seller who is sympathetic to our vision (such as an existing church).
With the support of the congregation we believe that we can. If it is with the will of God, we will find a way to purchase a property. We must pray about giving and finding a property that fits our needs. We can pray for a miracle.
Although the costs seem high, there are 3 factors that make it achievable:
Based on borrowing $5 million, we would be raising $15 million in cash (or similar) donations. We currently have approximately 550 donors annually; if 500 of those donors contributed to the project, the average donation would be $30,000 per donor (which could be spread out over 3 to 5 years).
We would hope that our donors would seriously consider how they may contribute and we would be pleased to meet with anyone to discuss practical options.
Vancouver Real Estate is very expensive. Rezoning is driving up property values along major transit corridors. Single Family homes in the proposed search area are selling for on average ~$3-million. Land values, for assembly of land, leading to development properties are even higher than single family lot prices.
The Building Committee and Trustees want to be realistic about costs. The estimated costs include land, building, parking, and any improvement values. The estimated costs are based on proven market values. Taken as a whole, the costs can be intimidating, but considered in the context of our overall church attendees and period of time, the costs have been modeled to be achievable.
This will depend on the building age. With a new building, the long term operating costs would be an important consideration in design decisions. Average operating and maintenance costs from our time at Shaughnessy were approximately $150K-200K per year.
If we were to assume operating costs of $175,000 per year (i.e. half way between the $150,000 and $200,000); a $7 million thirty year 3.2% mortgage (with annual service costs of $362,000); a rental saving of $200,000 per year; we would be looking at increasing our annual budget by 16% or $337,000.
The new building may be used to generate revenue which would support our borrowing ability or our operating budget. However, the main purpose in building a new facility is to support the growth of our ministries.
One time transaction costs for a buyer are considered small. Property transfer tax is not applicable to our church as Registered Charities are exempt. Please refer to the link to the BC government property transfer tax page. Realtor commission fees are normally paid by the seller (not the buyer). There will be some nominal fees such as; legal fees, inspection fees and survey fees associated with a purchase and a mortgage; which may be around $7,500.
It is anticipated that some architectural fees may be expended at the initiation of a purchase to explore expansion plans.
Could be fast or slow. If something comes up, we want to be ready.
We have to start now, so if a property comes up we can be ready to put down a down payment.
We hope to be in individual contact with each of our donors to determine how much money can be raised. We have started with an informal (anonymous) survey and will progress to more formal pledges.
Over the past 5 years, a total of 32 options have been identified and evaluated by the Building Committee. (last updated November 2016)
Availability/Location/Size/Timeframe/Affordability/Expectations (conventional or other-non-conventional non-church properties)
It will be essential to have the support of the congregation before we move forward with purchasing a property, and we are committed to seeking consensus on this decision. People will be given an opportunity to ask questions and give feedback. A formal survey was sent out (October 25, 2016) asking people for their opinions and, if they are in favour, how much they would support this project financially. The feedback from this initial survey showed a majority of respondents in favour.
a. Consultation on Why and What (Oct 4, 2016 Townhall)
b. Survey (Oct 25,2016, again before purchase)
c. Consultation on financial aspects
d. Present building site (once identified)
e. Vote of the members to support a loan
g. Build/Renovate (if required)
Our vision at St. John’s can still proceed regardless of our facility. If the funds are not available for the down payment, or the build/renovation, then we have to revisit what we can do and most of all pray (there have been many times when the final hour has come and through a miracle we meet the target and in 2015 we even exceeded our target). It may also mean that we slowly develop a property over time to suit our specific and emerging needs or we explore other avenues.
This is an issue for wisdom and there are many questions to consider: Does it best serve the long-term interests of gospel witness to have a place in Vancouver? Throughout the centuries Christians have sought to contextualize their faith by having a common meeting place for their gatherings, how does this guide our intentions? How does knowing that we have no certainty of being able to rent our current premises long term impact our decision?
There are built-in limitations as a church when renting. Offices are not at the same location. We have been very fortunate to have been welcomed by Oakridge Seventh Day Adventist and been given dedicated storage space, kneelers, Bibles in the pew, and Sunday School room use. We use the church building beyond just Sundays (Women @ 10 on Thursdays, Men’s Bible Studies Tuesdays/Fridays). However, we do not have full use of the facilities, and we only have short-term lease arrangements.
The space sizes were developed by looking at the needs of each area through a detailed space programming exercise. We could get creative with multifunction spaces (flex spaces/multipurpose), but there are distinct limitations (Just think of your home: a dining room table used as a desk). We have started with the wants/needs and once we find a suitable property we and the design team can look at these program requirements and how they can be shared.
St. John’s plays the role of an Anglican Church hub for regional, national, and international churches. We provide/develop resources for others around the world for encouragement, leadership, training, and material development. We as trustees feel that it this is best done together as one family in one facility. St. John’s is a supporter of church plants and continues to nurture future church leaders.