The historic Union Church in Mid-levels has announced the conclusion of an agreement with property developer Henderson Land, which will see it redeveloped into a block of apartments.
In a circular published on Thursday, Senior Pastor Greg Anderson announced that the church’s leadership voted to authorise its redevelopment committee – Building Union for the Future (BUFF) – to sign the contract on Monday.
The BUFF committee then signed the agreement with Henderson on Tuesday evening.
“When we adjourned, we went into the sanctuary for an extended time of prayer,” wrote Anderson. “As one deacon put it, ‘A historical moment, followed by unity in prayer: a most beautiful moment.’”
“Union will move this summer for the third time in its history, but this time we will come back to a sanctuary and facility that will bring glory to God in so many ways.”
22-storey apartment block
Established in 1844 by the London Missionary Society, the original Union Church building was destroyed during the Second World War. The current church on Kennedy Road was built in 1949, and is listed by the Antiquities and Monuments Office as a Grade III historic building.
A High Court judgement issued last November stated that the 68-year-old church building would be replaced by a 22-storey mainly-residential block built by Henderson. The five lowest floors will be home to the new church, while the other floors are planned as residential units.
The church obtained the judgement in order to guarantee that, even if the congregation vacated the site for redevelopment, its ownership would not revert to the now-defunct missionary society – as an ordinance dating from 1911 might have required.
The judgement revealed that Henderson would bear all costs for the redevelopment project. “In return, Henderson… will be entitled to the proceeds from the sale of 26 apartment units and 26 car parking spaces.”
“The Church will retain a total of 19 apartments of which seven apartments will be reserved for church or governmental, institutional or community use.”
A majority of church members approved the redevelopment plan three years ago in March 2014. Local paper Apple Daily reported at the time that among 164-strong congregation, 23 per cent opposed the plan, whilst 77 per cent voted in favour.
The church congregation plans to move temporarily to Wanchai commercial building Sunlight Tower, and will visit the temporary site on Sunday.
“The ‘temporary’ facility will be fantastic,” wrote Pastor Anderson in Thursday’s circular.
“We hope that as many of you as possible will join members of the Church leadership and pastoral staff to visit and pray for the temporary church facilities at Sunlight Tower in Wan Chai.”
The redevelopment of the church will take around five years.