By Kendra Sitton | Editor
New Vision Church held its last service in North Park for the foreseeable future on Sunday, May 5. The aged buildings on the 2.2-acre site at 4353 Park Blvd. will be demolished to make way for luxury condos. Now, New Vision is expanding to a multi-site church with several congregations in urban areas of San Diego including Mid-City and Encanto.
The Park Boulevard property was sold for $35 million last year to LMC North Park Holdings, LLC, which is owned by Lennar Multifamily Communities. After the purchase went through, New Vision leaders looked for a place to gather in North Park or University Heights but have yet to find a location. Their main service will now be held in Mid-City at 5310 Orange Ave., which used to be the home of Faith Lutheran Church.
“That [property sale] was really not our first choice for what we were going to do, but basically with the options that were in front of us and the changes in the neighborhood and our situation as a church without operational funds — with everything thing going on here, we really did not have a lot to work with,” Mike Haskins, who develops the church’s urban missions, said.
The sale was prompted by several factors, but a key one was the area being rezoned for higher density, which made the property value soar as developers sought out new locations for lucrative apartment buildings. Already, the changing neighborhood was pushing out many low-income families — the demographic New Vision leadership members say is central to their mission.
“There was some negotiation for about two years of different opportunities and options. One of them was to sell the property and then we would take the money and use it for ministry stuff… We took that option. We’ve taken that money and used it to buy multiple properties for ministries in urban communities,” Lead Pastor Pete Contreras said. “We wanted to go into working neighborhoods we could bring resources to.”
Since the church was surviving month to month, it was difficult to pay for the repairs the decades-old buildings desperately needed.
“Our oldest building was [built in] 1912, right around there, so it needed a lot of fixing up,” Contreras said.
As well as discussing whether they could stick it out in the old buildings, Contreras said they also looked at only selling half the property to a developer and rebuilding the church on the other half. However, he said the offers would have only covered the cost of construction.
“I didn’t like the joint venture because I was going to break even having a nice building next to a luxury place but a luxury place probably wouldn’t allow all the homeless people to be around there, all the ministry we do, all the feeding programs. Probably some tension that was gonna be there,” the pastor said.
He listed several ways the landfall sale will be used by the church, including its continued support of 20 church campuses in Ethiopia, a long-term homeless youth shelter as well as launching vocational training schools and opening up businesses to provide jobs for people.
“We’re also going to be building housing. Soфme of that money will be used to help us build multiple units for transitional housing, clean and sober homes, also senior housing,” Contreras said. “There’s a whole bunch of stuff we’re going to be doing that’s going to be launching off the income from the property sale.”
According to Contreras, New Vision distributed 20,000 meals a month out of its Park Boulevard location. With wealthier neighbors moving in, he worried opposition to the food distribution would grow. He also said many of the low-income people the church serves were being displaced and forced to move further east.
While the church is not currently holding services in North Park, its pastors are still looking for a suitable campus to hold Sunday services.
“We’re still looking in that area, but it’s hard to find a place with parking,” Outreach Pastor Sean Beaudoin said. “Basically, throughout all the city of San Diego, we will have a presence in to be able to do God’s work.”
In addition to looking for a service location, Haskins said the congregation will continue to do some of the community work they are already involved in, including highway cleanups and other beautification efforts. In addition, some of the people they served at food distributions are being redirected to Grace Church near Adams Avenue.
The church will be holding an SD Community Fest on Saturday, June 1, from noon to 5 p.m. at Colina Del Sol Park, which is across the street from their new Mid-City location.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.