£2.75m ... And the Elim congregation is praying for more
The Ulster Temple in Belfast is for sale with an asking price of £2.75m, it was revealed today.
And David Hamilton, senior pastor at the Elim Pentecostal Church on the city's Ravenhill Road, admitted he is praying for a generous buyer.
"We'd like to think we'd get more," said the pastor of the asking price for the landmark building. "I live in hope."
Mr Hamilton says the sale has become a reality with many of his congregation being priced out of the area:
"We have a good congregation of 200 people, but most of the young married couples who attend here have moved out to places like Bangor, Saintfield and Carryduff as getting a house in Belfast now is virtually impossible."
He added: "The whole demography of the area is changing. We don't want to be sitting here in 10-15 years time with just a few people sitting in such a large building."
So a new church is using the market to fund a move. The money raised from the sale of the Ulster Temple will be put towards a new, modern facility in Carryduff: "We are combining with Carryduff Elim. People don't want to sit in old buildings anymore," said the pastor. "Very few people walk to church now, they drive in and need somewhere to park their cars."
And the existing Elim premises at Carryduff will probably be demolished to make way for a "21st century church", according to Mr Hamilton.
He said there had been plans to upgrade parts of the 80-year-old Ulster Temple, which can seat 500 people, but the costs were prohibitive - over £1m.
The pastor says the 1,215 sq m building, which includes the church hall, offices and a sports hall on a 0.65 acre site, is ripe for development.
"It will probably end up as apartments."
And despite his 50 year association with the Ulster Temple, Mr Hamilton says he is not sad about the sale: "A church isn't about a building, it is about people. There is no point having a nice building if it ends up as a monument."
He is also confident a buyer will see the light - and the potential - offered by the church, despite the current market slowdown.
"Hopefully, there will be someone out there with the foresight who can see something here."
The property is zoned on white land within the Draft Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (2015) and there are no existing planning approvals on the site, according to the brochure of selling agent Hampton Estates.