The Vancouver School of Theology (VST) is selling its Iona Building, in the theological neighbourhood of the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus, to UBC for an agreed price of $28 million.
The deal has yet to be finalized by both sides, but the schools announced in a joint press release that UBC plans to take possession of the building in July 2014 and begin using the facility, which will house UBC’s Vancouver School of Economics.
VST, an independent theological school, plans to use part of the proceeds of the sale to continue its existing operations as a theological college at UBC and to set aside a substantial portion of the remainder in an endowment that will generate income to support professional and pastoral training. It retains ownership of nearby Somerville House and Chapel of the Epiphany. The Iona Building was built in 1927 on land leased from UBC for 999 years.
VST president Richard Topping, said in the announcement, “We have the incredible opportunity to construct a purpose designed facility to advance thoughtful, engaged and generous Christian faith for the 21st century.” VST is exploring two possibilities for its future home-building a new facility in the theological precinct on the UBC campus or repurposing Somerville House.
Dr. Heather Clarke, chair of the VST board of governors, added that, “This opportunity provided by the University of British Columbia gives Vancouver School of Theology new flexibility to develop physical, technical and financial resources to meet the needs of theological students and the wider community.”
The stone-faced 99,663 square-foot Iona Building includes two large modern conference rooms, four seminar rooms, offices, residential rooms, a chapel and a library.
According to the announcement, the VST board, faculty and senior staff conducted a review over the past 20 months, looking at how the school could best fulfill its mandate in the future. They concluded that the Iona Building “was no longer suited to the school’s new programming and that different facilities were needed.”
Stephen Toope, president of UBC, added that the building “holds historic significance for our community. When approached by VST, we grasped immediately the unique value of this opportunity. The arrangement also supports VST, a theological institution that has been a valued academic neighbour for many years.”