British Columbia

Oakridge Lutheran Church latest place of worship to seek redevelopment in Vancouver

The plan for the Oakridge Lutheran Church is to knock down the structure and redevelop the property with 46 units of housing, offered at below market rates, and a sanctuary on one of the six floors.

'Churches are changing,' says one parishioner. 'The younger generation is looking for something different.'

The Oakridge Lutheran Church is set for redevelopment in Vancouver. It's one of many congregations that are creating housing on their properties to survive. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Back in 1956 when the Oakridge Lutheran Church was built, there was no mall across the street and no Cambie Corridor either. The pews were filled with parishioners made up of young families, but now fewer than 50 attend each Sunday, with many of them well into their 80s.

Fewer than 50 people attend service each Sunday at the Oakridge Lutheran Church, which was built in 1956. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

While some of them were confirmed and married in the church, things are about to change as the plan is knock down the structure and redevelop the property with 46 units of housing, offered at below market rates, and a church sanctuary on one of the six floors.

There is an acceptance among older parishioners that things can't stay the same if churches are to survive says Hannelore Gerlach, who has been at the church for more than 50 years.

"Churches are changing," she said on Sunday. "The younger generation is looking for something different than we seem to offer."

"It has a lot of history and a lot of love from people here but at the same time change is difficult but I think its going to be a good thing," said Dorothy Chu, the pastor at Oakridge Lutheran Church.

The church is not alone in B.C. as others are also seeking rezoning or have already pushed ahead with demolitions and rebuilds.

Leonardo Di Francesco is one of a handful of real estate agents specializing in selling church properties.

"I've been in the real estate business for 31 years, and I've been selling churches for 22, 21 years and we've sold over a hundred and over the last little while it's been building even more," he said.

"It is sad to see the building go, but it's being reborn again into a new form and a new group of people are going to benefit from it," said parishioner Barb Gerlach.

With files from Deborah Goble.

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