This follows the decision by the Synod Standing Committee to enter into a joint venture partnership to construct a mixed-use accommodation hotel and residential apartment building.
Crosslight informed the Church in December of last year of the decision of the Standing Committee to divest 130 Little Collins Street, to enable synod operations to move into a Uniting Church hub at the newly developed Wesley Upper Lonsdale site.
The Property Board is expecting an announcement relating to planning approval for Wesley Upper Lonsdale in the next few months. Assuming this project is given the green light, Wesley Congregation, Wesley Mission Victoria and synod-based operations and ministries will move to that address in late 2019.
The Property Board’s advice to the Standing Committee in August of last year was that selling 130 Little Collins Street in an open market would not generate enough funds to cover the Wesley Upper Lonsdale lease obligations long term. As a result the Standing Committee rejected a straight sale, and focused instead on options which added value to the sale of the property.
In a letter to the Church last week, Moderator Dan Wootton said the Standing Committee also considered the potential of ongoing income to support further the mission of the wider Church.
“As part of its resolution, the Standing Committee has requested the Property Board, in consultation with BOMAR, to provide it with a revised allocation of the proceeds that includes specific allocation ‘for whole of Church mission’,” the moderator wrote.
Director of Property, Paul Walec, said the Uniting Church will contribute its land and expertise to the joint venture partnership, but stressed the Uniting Church is not going into the accommodation hotel business.
“The Church shares profit from the development through the sale of the apartments and the accommodation hotel. This will be invested and channelled back into the long-term lease obligations of synod-based ministries and operations as well as other mission activities of the Church,” Mr Walec explained.
The chairperson of the Property Board, Rev David Parker, said that the various options put to the Standing Committee had been carefully assessed from a legal and financial viewpoint, set within a missional overlay.
“Over the last few years significant changes have been made to improve accountability, and to ensure proper stewardship and good governance. There has also been ongoing thinking relating to the Church’s missional approach to property.”
“The Synod Property Board and Finance Committee approved a detailed assessment of the risks and associated mitigation strategies for each of the three options presented to the Standing Committee. Their advice was that the joint venture had a lower level of risk than the other two disposal options.”
This is a significant development project for the Uniting Church which Mr Parker said will provide long-term financial sustainability for the mission of the Church.
The 2019-2020 timeline, pending State Government approvals, is to ensure synod operations moves only the once – from its current home to Lonsdale Street.