In May, the Oregon branch of Volunteers Of America (VOA) bought a large property on NE Glisan Street from Central Bible Church. The property spans two blocks, encompassing the large church building at 8815 NE Glisan Street and the unpaved parking lot across NE 90th Ave.
In a message from the Central Bible Church about the sale, they described VOA’s intentions for the property. VOA of Oregon runs programs throughout the State that focus on serving the elderly, youth, individuals released from incarceration, people with disabilities, and recovering addicts. At this facility, they will repurpose the existing building and campus to expand the availability of programs they currently offer in Portland. Although VOA is in the early stages of planning, some services expected at this site include the VOA Family Relief Nursery, recovery services, and counseling services.
The Central Bible Church supported its members for 89 years. However, financial difficulties forced the organization to cease operations last year. They held their final service on Sunday, February 23rd, 2020. In a letter to the congregation, church leaders explained that the staffing levels and size of the property were more than what members could support. Mounting utility costs for the 60,000 square-foot facility outpaced its active use, and 65% of the operating budget went to employee-related costs, 15% greater than similar faith-based operations.
Church leadership also pointed to new seismic requirements in the Portland code and over one million dollars in deferred maintenance as deciding factors in the church’s decision to shut down. Staff gifted historically significant documents and pictures from Central Bible Church to the Multnomah University library, which will become part of the school’s permanent archive. Displaced members and leaders created a new church in NE Portland called Stone Table Church and are slowly building up that congregation.
Central Bible Church leadership was happy to have sold to an organization in line with its goals. Like the previous owners, Volunteers Of America is a faith-based organization. Unfortunately, the sale has displaced the SkateChurch that shared the property with Central Bible Church. SkateChurch is currently seeking a new location.
With such a large property, VOA has many options to develop the land further. Although, there are significant changes needed to the existing structures to meet future requirements. Look for the long-vacant building return to use soon, as it transforms to serve its new function in the community.