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Sale rejected for St. Sophia

By James Jackson
Waterloo Chronicle
Published April 9, 2014

Parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St. Sophia have voted against selling their property to a nearby land developer.

Speaking on behalf of the church last week, Wilf Wallace of Royal Lepage said the vote occurred last Sunday.

“That potential transaction has fallen through and the property is back on the market,” said Wallace. “Unfortunately I can’t say any more than that, I wasn’t at the meeting.”

The Chronicle could not make contact with representatives from St. Sophia prior to press time. The church is located at the corner of King Street North and Noecker Street, near uptown Waterloo.

The potential deal was with UID Development Inc., which is working on a proposed development known as K2 Condominiums directly adjacent to the church property. The twin-tower condo building would consolidate properties at 158 and 160 King St. N, 8 and 10 Noecker St., and 11 James St. S.

According to Wallace, the sale included several conditions before it could proceed, including the vote by the congregation and an environmental assessment of the land. The vote against the sale scuttled the deal before it could proceed any further.

The 0.22 acre church property was first posted on the Royal LePage website for $2.2 million on Jan. 30 and includes the church and a semi-detached home with a combined area of 3,000 square feet. Church members purchased the property in 1969 for $45,000.

Glenn Scheels of GSP Group represented UID Development throughout the negotiation process with the church and was reluctant to comment on the deal after the church voted it down.

“What I can tell you is yes, we had entered into an agreement of purchase and sale through their realtor and signed by the trustees of the church … they did have a vote and they voted to turn down the proposal,” said Scheels. “Unfortunately, it’s a no-go.”

Members of St. Sophia have a number of worries related to the proposed development. The city held an informal public council meeting in November to discuss the development and parishioners filled the chamber and spoke in protest of the condo. The city hosted another public meeting with the community on Feb. 10.

Parishioners are concerned about noise, both during construction and once the building is complete, as well as disrespectful residents and the loss of privacy. The church has already had problems with vandalism from local students, they said.

In an interview with the Chronicle in February, Claudia Griebenow, a member of the St. Sophia council, said the church felt hemmed in by the project and they were in a “state of limbo.”

Prior to the vote, Wallace said he advised the members of the church to accept the deal.

“It was an emotional thing for them, they’ve been going to the church for years (but) from a business point of view, they should move,” he said.

The condo project is tentatively scheduled to come back to council on May 5, where council could vote to approve it. The newest design includes a 21-storey tower and an 11-storey tower.

Wallace wouldn’t divulge what the offer from UID for the land was worth, but he confirmed it was lower than the $2.2 million the church was seeking. He also said the developer isn’t planning any further discussion with the church at this time.

“The offer was a very generous offer,” Scheels said.