Report of the Development Team to the BVCC Congregation

Beginnings

In the fall of 2018, Bow Valley Christian Church (hereafter BVCC) was approached by developers who expressed an interest in buying our property.  In trying to determine how to respond to this inquiry, the leadership team was prompted to begin a journey of discovery to consider options of how God may be leading us to maximize the asset we have for His glory.  The journey so far has involved the consideration of several other important factors regarding our property and building.  This report will outline some of those considerations, and the progress made to date.

Current State of our Building

One of the first questions we began to ask was, “What is wrong with our current building?” Our present building was built 42 years ago in 1978 and is aging, in some areas rapidly.  A Reserve Fund Study was commissioned to assess the present status of our building and what would be necessary to maintain our current building for the next 30 years. This study shows that simply to maintain our current building for the forseeable future, we need to set aside approximately $150,000 to $200,000 per year. This would not include renovations or changes to the structure of the building.  It has been noted as well that there are functional deficiencies of our current building. Examples of the things that are lacking include:

  • A mid-sized gathering space for small weddings or funerals,
  • More mid-sized meeting rooms like our current multi-purpose room,
  • And a more visible children’s ministry space.

A team of skilled people has been assembled to consider the various options regarding our building and property. The current members of this Development Team are: Keith Shields (chair and Executive Pastor), Bruce Mills (member and business leader), Buz Burnside (member and business leader), Brad Anderson (elder and business leader), Joe Murphy (member and business consultant), Gerry Erickson (member and business consultant), Rina Hubilla (member and manager of properties for Alberta Health Services), Rob Kitchen (member and tax lawyer) and Brent Williams (member and not-for-profit executive).

There is a strong sense with all members of the Development Team that we are at a strategic juncture in our history. The mandate of the team, first and foremost, is that we are tasked with exploring the best possible avenues of stewarding this resource (land and building) – for the Glory of God, and for helping as many people as possible “find and follow Jesus.”  In practical terms right now, we feel that means exploring ways to maximize the value and functionality of the BVCC property asset with which He has entrusted us. The team began to realize that by deciding not to consider any changes was really a decision to invest heavily in our current structure.

Options Considered

Understanding the need and urgency for doing something soon regarding a church building, we have considered five main approaches:

  1. Development option – Develop the existing location to contain space for residential, multiuse and our church facility.  The development would be in partnership with a firm that specializes in this process.
  2. Greenfield option – Sell what we have and move to a new location where we would build a new facility
  3. Buy/renovate Church option – Sell our current property and purchase/renovate an existing church building somewhere else
  4. Buy/renovate Warehouse option – Buy a warehouse in a light industrial area and renovate for our purposes
  5. Renovate Existing option – Using the Reserve Study as a maintenance guide, maintain the building as per the Study while at the same time renovating certain areas to improve functionality.

After much prayer and due diligence in exploring the options, the team narrowed their focus to the development option, and believe that at the present time in our history, this is the best way to steward the resource of the land and building that the Lord has entrusted to us. (Details of the drawbacks of each of the other options are available for those who would like more detail.)

Trinity Centres Foundation

For help in navigating the many considerations of a development such as this, we have been in consultation with Trinity Centres Foundation (TCF) since late Fall of 2018. TCF is a not-for-profit foundation that helps churches leverage the value of their properties for Kingdom Mission.  Graham Singh is the Executive Director of TCF, and Keith Shields has known him personally for a number of years. For an introduction to TCF please see the following links: https://trinitycentres.org/ ;   https://youtu.be/w-sI6jb-TBI Our key contacts at TCF have been, Graham Singh, Executive Director: Specialist in Church Planting & Church Repurposing and David Bentall, Associate: Specialist in large project delivery.

In November of 2018 the elders signed a “Collaborative Agreement” with TCF. The key points were that TCF would take about ten months to do a preliminary study to ascertain the feasibility of developing our four acres of land such that high-density housing might be developed to help fund the construction of a new building on this site for BVCC. The budget for this preliminary study was set at $90,000. BVCC entered into an agreement on a cost sharing basis related to this preliminary study. This is known as Phase 1, which has been recently completed. There are additional phases yet to be embarked upon if we so choose. TCF agreed to fund Phase 1 in the amount of $90,000 with the understanding that BVCC will develop a long term relationship, where costs can be recovered from  future phases of the project.  If BVCC chooses to end their relationship with TCF, BVCC will pay TCF 50% of the Phase 1 costs.

TCF has proposed Phase 2 which would see us obtain an entitlement with the City of Calgary for 750,000 sq/ft of developed space. It is expected that completing  Phase 2 will cost ~$150,000, but will enable us to improve the value of our property because the site will be primed for development. No one can be certain of how much improvement this might create but it could be as high as $5,000,000 additional value. Additionally, completing Phase 2 will then pave the way for Phase 3 which would be to begin the physical development.

Processes

At BVCC, directional decisions are made by the board of Elders.  Regarding the considerations of development of our property, the Development Team makes recommendations to the Elders, and then the Elders decide on whether to accept the recommendations and proceed, or not.  According to our constitution, the two circumstances that require a congregational vote are (1) the hiring of a lead pastor, and (2) the selling or purchasing of real property.  Generally, spending money does not require a congregational vote, however because of the scope of this project, the Board and the Development team keenly desire that members of the congregation be informed and enthusiastic about the process, and about the potential to enhance our stewardship.  So, the opportunity to vote will be offered to the congregation at the appropriate time.

Currently, a potential option for the development of the property, would include BVCC selling a portion of the land to the developer, and keeping a portion of the land on which a new BVCC building would sit.  Development of the land which was sold would then fund the construction of the new church building.  Currently, our vision is that the church would be included as a complementary part of the larger development. There are many further details to be worked out as to how much interest BVCC might maintain in the overall development. The general principle is that the more interest we retain, the more benefit from the profits we would receive and the greater our risk and costs in the overall process.

Work to Date

On April 10 of 2019, representatives from TCF and BVCC met with Ward Sutherland (the City Councillor for the ward within which the property sits) as a first step in determining the city’s interest in working with us on this. The same representatives also met with city planning and transportation people.  At these meetings it was determined that the next step would be to begin to look at the approval process for the rezoning of the land.

A plan was made to set up what is known as a “pre-app meeting.” Prior to a formal rezoning application, a pre-app looks at how likely it is that the application would be approved. TCF invested approximately $10,000 on drawings and communications for the pre-app meeting. (This was part of the overall budget for the Collaborative Agreement). The pre-app meeting took place on November 26, 2019 and the city responded with a letter in late December. Given the current stage of the process, the response in the letter could not be concrete, however there was indication that the City appears very willing to consider a proposal for redevelopment in alignment with what we have been considering.

Additionally, TCF has conducted telephone meetings to date with Thom Mahler, Manager, Urban Strategy City of Calgary; Teresa Goldstein, Manager, North Area Community Planning, Planning and Development; Nina Nagy, P.Eng. Customer Coordinator, Affordable Housing, Calgary Approvals Coordination, Planning & Development; Angela Williams, Neighbourhood Partnership Coordinator, Calgary Neighbourhoods, The City of Calgary; Grant Basiuk, General Manager Varsity Community Association; Bob Benson President, Varsity Community Association; Darlene Feil Chair, Varsity CA Civic Affairs Committee; and Cole Piechotta, Senior Transportation Engineer, City of Calgary. (We report these details to show that a considerable amout of work has been done to this point.)

Parking

In a development of this nature, one thing that must be considered is how to manage parking. Our current property configuration has 266 parking spots. Typically, between 150 and 200 spots are used each Sunday morning.  Today, cities all over Canada are taking fresh approaches to managing parking needs. Although the details have not yet been determined, the Development Team is confident that any development on this site will allow for sufficient parking for the needs of BVCC.

Continued Communication

As many will know, the Development Team has been communicating periodically with updates on the church website at www.bvcchurch.ca.  Until now, there has been little to present in the form of a full status update given that the Development Team has been discussing potential alternatives, considering options, and seeking God’s guidance for this initial stage. Now that some clarity has been achieved, and initial decisions have been made, the team is delighted to be able share in this document outlining what has been accomplished so far.

Current Context

According to Collier’s property evaluation dated Oct. 1, 2015, the highest and best use of our property would likely be residential development for condominium ownership.  The Development Team has been very aware, however, that the economic climate in the past couple of years would indicate caution in re-developing with condominiums even though in a slower economy construction prices are typically lower.

Now that the world is grappling with the economic impacts of a global pandemic, this caution is heightened. We know that the King of Kings is in control and nothing takes him by surprise, so we are seeking Him as to how we should proceed.  The Development Team has done a significant amount of work and would normally be moving forward with the next steps in seeking to achieve approval for rezoning of the property for development.  However given the current environment, the team has agreed with TCF to pause the current activity and together to seek the Lord’s will regarding timing of our next steps.

Please make it a matter of prayer to join the Development Team and the Elders in seeking the Lord’s will regarding His great plan as together we walk with Him and help those around us to find and follow Jesus.