The Church of Scientology of Santa Barbara has purchased an office building off Seaward Avenue in Ventura, with plans to house the church, chapel, rooms for parishioners to study the religion and administrative offices, as well as for community gatherings and activities.
“This building will be our church and it will be fully dedicated to servicing our parishioners and the community, as is every other Church of Scientology,” Debbie Cregan, president of the Church of Scientology of Santa Barbara, wrote in an email.
The roughly 61,000-square-foot building, with large windows and a dark brown wood aesthetic, is at 2151 Alessandro Drive. Built in 1980, it faces Highway 101 and was previously owned by former Kinko’s President Dan Frederickson, said Shaun Bieniek, vice president of Daum Commercial Real Estate Services, which handled the listing.
The property sold for $6.25 million, Bieniek said. The existing tenants, which include the health care vocational school Career Care Institute, will eventually move out, he said.
The site is part of the church’s 2004 “strategy to transform all Scientology Churches into Ideal Churches of Scientology,” according to its website. Before he died, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard had hoped the religion’s churches would one day be a physical embodiment of his teachings and beliefs.
Over the past decade, the Church of Scientology has expanded faster than in the previous 50 years combined, according to Cregan. In the past year, new churches have opened in places including Miami; Atlanta; Harlem; San Diego; Sydney, Australia; and Budapest, Hungary. The Ventura location was a good fit, she said.
“Our local parishioners loved the building and its location, and it is of a size that we need for our expanding congregation and community activities,” Cregan wrote.
Although there is a Church of Scientology Mission of San Buenaventura, it’s a separate corporation. Each church operates independently within Scientology’s structure, she said.
Coupled with the sale last year of a 35,000-square-foot office building off Telephone Road, this means the vacancy rate for office space in Ventura could really drop, Bieniek said.
“We will be getting very tight. By the end of the year, we will be facing office challenges of where to put people,” he said.
Several people were interested in the space, but after a major tenant announced it would be ending its lease, a couple of potential buyers pulled out, Bieniek said.
City Community Development Director Jeff Lambert said the city has had preliminary talks with representatives from Scientology.
“They were really just asking us questions,” he said. “We didn’t get a whole lot of information from them.”
The building is already approved for the type of uses the church envisions, Cregan said.
In a neighborhood nearby, Anastasi Development Co. LLC is in the process of selling property it owns at Seaward and Harbor Boulevard. Vice President Scott Anastasi confirmed the property is in escrow but said the details were confidential.
After years of public input and city review, officials approved plans in 2010 for 138 condominiums and 495 parking spots with ground-level retail and commercial space. When the market fell out for condos, Anastasi returned in 2013 with plans to scale it back to 86 town homes.
That didn’t go far, and Anastasi later reverted to its original footprint, Lambert said. But when the developer returned to the city Design Review Committee, the final construction plans didn’t match the original plans.
“They weren’t really following the level of design that was in the approvals,” Lambert said. “They said, ‘Come back with a project that’s consistent with the approval and we’ll approve it.’”
Anastasi instead put the property on the market.
Lambert, who declined to name the potential buyer because the sale hasn’t closed, said the city has said the best bet would be to deliver the project that’s been approved.
Although Anastasi declined to comment on why the company was divesting itself of the property, he said it remains a “great project.”
“The fact that we’re selling it has nothing to do with what we believe in the project or how we think about it,” he said.
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