A parcel of land in the centre of Gympie, which includes the historic Surface Hill Church and its raised pipe organ, is headed to auction for the first time as an amalgamated site.
The 8012-square-metre block at 14-18 Channon Street includes the 1890-built church and four other buildings, including an administrative centre used by Gympie Council and properties leased to a pilates business and Uniting Care. It is generating $260,000 a year in income.
It’s believed to be among the largest land parcels to be offered for sale in the Gympie CBD for more than 20 years.
The owners had acquired the church and surrounding titles on a piecemeal basis over the past several decades and subsequently gained approval for a 39-room motel project in about 2013, according to listing agent Brocke Hambrecht, of Ray White.
Allied health and aged-care groups had already expressed interest, as well as investors attracted to the “heritage aspects” of a site that has long been a landmark of the town, and the potential to explore other avenues for development on the vacant section of the site.
The Wesleyan Methodists first erected a bark hut on the site to use as a chapel in 1868. Then, as the town was swept up in the region’s gold rush, Swedish-born architect Hugo William Du Rietz was engaged to design the church in 1889, with the official opening on August 7, 1890.
Du Rietz was prolific in the region and was responsible for designing or supervising the construction of many of the town’s structures at the time.
Mr Hambrecht said the heritage-listed church, which features a raised pipe organ from 1890 that was refurbished in the early 1980s, was vacant but had been used for the “odd wedding” in recent years.
“Basically it’s been operating as a hall for hire. It’s a very sturdy old building but it wouldn’t take much to remove the pews in there and potentially transform it into a cafe or similar,” he said.
Leasing the church building would be a quick way for a new landlord to generate an increased return from the property, Mr Hambrecht said.
Gympie has a population of about 21,500 and is about 160 kilometres north of Brisbane.
But Mr Hambrecht said Gympie’s population growth story meant it was becoming an attractive place for investors to do business.
“Obviously it’s a country town and relies on farming and tourism but the surrounding region has constantly been within the top-20 growth corridors in Queensland for the past 20 years now,” he said.
The property is being sold as part of Ray White’s national commercial auction portfolio on Friday, March 27, in Brisbane.
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