Diocese of Ontario finds eager buyer for historic property

By

Brenda Still

Bishop Michael Oulton, of the diocese of Ontario, shares a moment with Greg and Liz Smith of St. Luke's parish, Lyndhurst, Ont., during an “open house” at the new diocesan office Friday, May 5. Photo: Mark Hauser
Bishop Michael Oulton, of the diocese of Ontario, shares a moment with Greg and Liz Smith of St. Luke's parish, Lyndhurst, Ont., during an “open house” at the new diocesan office Friday, May 5. Photo: Mark Hauser

A historic building put up for sale  last summer by the diocese of Ontario attracted a buyer faster and at much better terms than expected, Bishop Michael Oulton says.

The old diocesan centre, at 90 Johnson Street, Kingston, Ont., was sold to Oxford Seminars, a company that provides courses in teaching English as a second language, for its asking price of $1.3 million. In an unusual twist, the buyer happened to be in dire need of space because a bid it had made on another building had just fallen through, Oulton says.

“They were sitting there with their financing all in place, and they desperately needed a place, and when our listing went up that’s exactly what they wanted,” he says. “It was unbelievable…Some people would say this was a coincidence—I say these things are movements of the Spirit!”

The building was put up for sale in early July 2016, and was already being shown within 24 hours of being listed, says Alex Pierson, the diocese’s interim executive officer. The diocese received an offer about three weeks later, and accepted the offer in August. The sale was finally completed in January 2017. The diocese has invested the net proceeds of the sale, and is using the investment income to fund new programming and mission work, Pierson says.

Including its basement, the 1851 building is 9,000 square feet (836 square metres) in area. Before the sale, it housed offices for the bishop and program staff, archives and a retail book room. The diocese had decided to sell the building because it no longer needed that much office space, and also because the building was in need of expensive repair work; a recent engineering study showed the building needed roughly $300,000 in upgrades immediately, Oulton says.

The diocese had had the building appraised at about a million dollars, but listed it for $1.3 million to test the interest of the market, he says. Oulton expected it to be on the market for some time, because of the repair work it needed and because of its heritage designation, which means repair work also tends to be more expensive.

The diocese was also relieved because very few conditions were put on the sale, he adds.

“Sometimes in real estate transactions, buyers will say, ‘Okay, I’ll buy your building, but you’ll have to do this, and you’ll have to do that, and we need this upgraded and we need that remediated,’ and all this,” he says. “We had none of that. It was a very, very smooth, clean transaction. Was it ever.”

The diocese has since moved its offices into a leased space in downtown Kingston, and held an “open house” event, inviting the public to refreshments and light snacks, Friday afternoon, May 5.

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Tali Folkins

Tali Folkins

Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.

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