RMG’s Oliver United Apartments honours the 100 year history of Oliver United Church

How RMG Preserved 100 Years of History with Oliver United Church

The following is a guest post from Cameron Rogers of Rogers Management Group.

RMG facilitates a 100 year anniversary celebration, and undertook the renovation in phases to allow worship to continue for as long as possible.

How do you buy a church exactly?

Oliver United Apartments is a project to build much needed rental housing into a 100 year old historic church at 511 Church Ave, Oliver BC. The building was the first church in Oliver; founded the same year as the town itself. Many years ago when the town renamed some streets, Church Ave was named for the building. It stands a block from Main Street/Hwy 97 in the centre of the community that’s famous for wineries, fruit and sunshine.

Buying a church is quite unlike buying a residential or commercial property. Motivations and processes are completely different. In addition to being a place of worship, key life events like weddings, baptisms and funerals are celebrated in churches. For many members the building serves as the center of their social and volunteer circle. They may have met their spouse at a church social or hung out with their best friends while running a soup kitchen every week for years. And then there is the time and money invested and resulting sense of ownership members feel. Feelings can run pretty strong around churches.

RMG has unique insights and experience with church transactions. Cameron Rogers has been involved in building, managing and leasing churches as a volunteer for many years. Jeff Klam served as CFO for a group of churches in BC where he bought, sold, leased and managed church properties. RMG can understand and find common cause with the church members who want to bless the community.

When approaching the Oliver United Church to buy and redevelop it RMG asked questions like: What is motivating the congregation to sell? What are they planning to do next? How many committees and boards have to approve the contract? How do the members feel about the sale? How can RMG ensure the building continues to serve a constructive use for the community? How can RMG honor 100 years of service and history?

So how does RMG purchase it while still maintaining the sense of community and history?

RMG learned the remaining members of the congregation are elderly and unable to continue maintaining the property in the long term. They were looking for a solution that would help the community.

RMG crafted a unique deal with a nearly year long close and a fixed term lease back for part of the building, while adding rental housing to generate revenue. This arrangement allowed the congregation to celebrate their 100th anniversary in December 2022 using the whole building including the kitchen and church hall.

Then RMG closed the purchase and reduced the size of the sanctuary to create a more intimate space, along with a rearranged foyer that now serves the place of the fellowship hall. About 3/4 of the church will be converted to six units of rental housing during 2023. When the congregation is unwilling or unable to continue they will move out and RMG will convert the rest of the space to two more rental suites, not later than 2027.

Everyone agrees that rental housing is desperately needed in Oliver BC. There is always demand as more people move to the south Okanagan but the town is constrained by the Agricultural Land Reserve from spreading out. This church was one of the first public buildings in Oliver so RMG’s preservation of the exterior including the stain glass windows and bell tower will be meaningful for the whole community. Carrying on the Oliver United Apartments name is a reminder of the 100 year history of the Oliver United Church, a gesture much appreciated by the church members. You can also play a part in preserving this historic structure and profit from the change of use to housing by investing in Oliver United Apartments.

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