One of Sarnia’s grand old churches for sale, going cheap

Central United Church. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

One of the city’s oldest churches is up for sale.

Central United Church is preparing to close its doors for the final time following the congregation’s 188th anniversary service in November of 2020.

“The congregation has taken great pleasure in serving the community for all these years, is proud of its legacy, and looks forward to witnessing the next chapter for 220 George St.,” church board chair Marg Maltin in a release.

“It’s hoped that the new owner will find just as much joy in the property as we have.”

The downtown landmark at the intersection of George Street and Brock Street went on the market last week. Realtor Kenn Poore said the building and its 1.6 acres are listed for $369,000.

“It’s one heck of a lot of building for $369,000. There are houses in that neighbourhood that have sold for more,” said Poore, a broker with Cushman & Wakefield.

The church was built in 1888 with additions added in 1925 and 1950. The 20,000-square-foot building has two chapels, offices, a kitchen and gymnasium.

Poore said the church, which at its peak held up to 1,200 worshippers, could see new life with another church community, a theatrical and performing arts group, or a “creative developer” looking to convert it to condos.

“I think the least favourite alternative, of course, would be demolition and reconstruction on the site, although we have to bear in mind that is a possibility.”

There is already buyer interest in the building, which is listed on the Sarnia Real Estate Board and London Real Estate board websites, he said.

“It’s not very often, in Sarnia anyway, that any church of this magnitude has come on the market.”

The National Trust for Canada, a charity that works to save old buildings, estimates 9,000 churches and other religious spaces in Canada will be lost over the next decade.

Shrinking congregations and rising maintenance costs will force about a third of them to be closed, sold or torn down, the charity estimates.

Other local churches that have closed in recent years include High Park United, Blackwell United and Mandaumin United.