For more than a year, congregants of the Victory Christian Church and Academy in Chula Vista have endured a cloud overhead because the possibility loomed that they might have to sell some three acres at E Street and Fifth Avenue to a developer — one whose aim would be to build condos and in the process level the property and its buildings, including the dramatic and stunning sanctuary that has stood there for at least half a century.
They'd prefer not to, church leaders said, but they would sell to a developer as a last resort in order to realize their vision and their own plans for growth. They've been steadfast, though, that whatever happened would be the right outcome. As one church leader put it last week while she led me on a tour of the for-sale parcels, “God has plans for us. Whatever God sees the need to be.”
Then, on Sunday (November 26th), the weight was lifted. The church found a buyer, a local charter school that was willing to pay the asking price of $5.5 million. There are no plans to demolish the E Street campus. (Church officials said the charter school will be identified only when all the details are settled, with escrow set to close by June 1.)
The sale puts the congregation's plans to develop 8.5 acres at 810 Buena Vista Way, near Southwestern College, into high gear. The site had been home to the Church of Joy and the San Diego Lutheran High School, both of which late in 2015 joined the congregants on E Street, at Pilgrim Lutheran Church and School, to form a new entity known as Victory Christian Church & Academy.
The aim for the Buena Vista campus is to open a remodeled sanctuary, a school for students as young as two years old through high school, athletic fields, classrooms, and a multi-purpose gym and auditorium. The majority of it would be in place for the start of the 2019–2020 school year.
In the meantime, Victory Christian will be able to rescue treasures from the high-vaulted E Street sanctuary, including stained-glass windows and a towering pipe organ capable of shaking the rafters. Until the new campus is ready, the group will also rent back space at E and Fifth for the preschool (for children aged two to five) and the elementary school (for kindergarten through eighth grade).
“One of the major reasons we're doing this is to get a little closer to the center of Chula Vista,” said Scott Dufresne, the executive director of Victory Christian Academy, said in a phone interview on November 27th. “We can be looking equally east and west.”
Dufresne said even if the church had to exercise the “last resort” and sell to a developer, the permitting process would take so long that it would derail the timetable for building up Buena Vista. Besides, he said, all three proposals submitted by developers fell short of the $5.5 million asking price.