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The Vancouver School of Theology and the University of British Columbia announced today that UBC will purchase from VST the 1927 stone-faced Iona Building located in the theological neighbourhood of UBC's Vancouver campus. The agreed purchase price is $28 million, subject to both parties completing their due diligence.

The Iona Building is a property of VST, an independent theological academic institution that leased the land for 999 years from UBC in 1927. Following a recent comprehensive review, the VST board concluded that its programs require different facilities and approached UBC to discuss a possible sale.

Iona will provide UBC with new academic space as various initiatives draw more students, faculty and staff to its Vancouver campus. UBC will use the building and land for university institutional and academic use only, with the Faculty of Arts’ Vancouver School of Economics as the main occupant.

VST will use a portion of the sale proceeds to relocate their operations to more suitable space in the UBC theological neighbourhood, and place the balance of the funds in an endowment to support its educational mission and operations. VST retains ownership of nearby Somerville House and Chapel of the Epiphany.

The building at 6000 Iona Drive is a landmark on Vancouver's Point Grey peninsula. UBC plans to take possession in July 2014 and begin using the facility by September 2015.


Vancouver School of Theology

Richard Topping, Principal: "We have the incredible opportunity to construct a purpose designed facility to advance thoughtful, engaged and generous Christian faith for the 21st century.”

Dr. Heather F. Clarke, Board of Governors Chair: “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”.

University of British Columbia

Stephen Toope, President and Vice Chancellor: "This building holds historic significance for our community. When approached by VST, we grasped immediately the unique value of this opportunity. The arrangement also supports a theological institution that has been a valued academic neighbour for many years."

Gage Averill, Dean of Arts: "This will generate great excitement for the Faculty of Arts. The magnificent Iona building is ideally suited for the UBC Vancouver School of Economics. It is a treasure that will provide an inspiring setting for our faculty and students."


The Iona Building

• Located at 6000 Iona Drive on UBC's Vancouver campus, the Iona Building features a tower that faces the North Shore mountains and Howe Sound.

• The 99,663 square-foot building includes two large modern conference rooms, four seminar rooms, offices, residential rooms and a chapel and library.

The purchase agreement

• Over the past 20 months, the VST board, faculty and senior staff studied how the institution could best fulfill its future mandate. The process revealed Iona was no longer suited to the school's new programming, and that different facilities were needed.

• VST approached UBC in 2012 to discuss the sale. UBC recognized the inherent value of this Vancouver architectural treasure on its campus and its potential as much-needed new academic space.

• The UBC and VST boards have approved a purchase price of $28 million and are satisfied that the deal is fair. Both institutions will now finalize the details of the transaction.

• UBC is financing the purchase and further renovations with an internal loan from its working capital. It is expected the debt will be completely repaid over the next 30 years through a combination of fundraising and income generated from the Iona property.

VST future plans

• VST will remain in the UBC Theological Neighbourhood and is exploring two possible options for its future home. One would involve a new construction in the theological precinct on the UBC campus. The other option is the repurposing of Somerville House. In either case, VST wants to design a facility that will support training for ministry in the 21st century.

• VST retains ownership of other buildings in the theological neighbourhood: Somerville House and Chapel of the Epiphany.

• VST plans to use the proceeds of the sale to continue its existing operations as a theological college at UBC, by investing in its facilities on the Vancouver campus and by setting aside a substantial portion of the remaining proceeds in an endowment that will generate income to support professional and pastoral training.

UBC’s plans for the Iona Building

• The University of British Columbia is one of North America’s largest and most prestigious public research and teaching institutions, and one of only two Canadian universities to be consistently ranked among the world’s 40 best.

• UBC will use the building and land for academic use only, with the Faculty of Arts' Vancouver School of Economics as the building’s main occupant. UBC has yet to complete a detailed occupancy plan of the building.

The UBC Vancouver School of Economics (hyperlink to is a global centre for research and hands-on learning about pressing economic issues. The School is one of the world’s best: in a recent ranking based on research publications, the School ranked in the top 20 worldwide, and number one in Canada.

Image: VST Principal, the Reverend Dr. Richard Topping announcing the sale of the Iona Building to the VST community, Tuesday, January 7th, 2014. PHOTO: Melanie Delva