An Indian Christian denomination that traces its roots back to St Thomas is planning to build a new church on vacant land next to the Rivett shops.
Block 23 Section 28 is currently open green space with about a dozen trees, including a large eucalypt in the middle of the site, but it has been earmarked for community use for some time.
There are no registered trees on the block.
Water, stormwater and sewerage connection works have been underway in recent weeks and the planning directorate confirmed that it has been preparing the site for sale including due diligence, surveying the boundary and servicing the site.
A path to the shops has also been removed.
The planning directorate said the St Athanasius Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church Incorporated was found eligible by the ACT Government in December 2019 for the direct sale of a concessional Crown lease for the purpose of a place of worship, community and cultural centre.
Cabinet signed off on the direct sale, saying it would facilitate the free expression of the religious and cultural rights of a section of Canberra’s Syrian Orthodox community, that the facilities would provide greater choice and variety within Canberra’s wider community, and it would encourage greater diversity.
A directorate spokesperson said the church was currently preparing its development application and was expected to lodge it by the end of the year or early 2022.
The church confirmed its plans for the site but said it was yet to secure the land or engage an architect, and the pandemic may delay the development application.
Treasurer Shibu George said the church community consisted of about 50 families who live mainly in the Weston Creek-Molonglo and Woden areas.
At present, the church community rents the Church of Christ building in Lyons.
Mr George said the church had been looking for a site for about eight years before applying successfully through the Suburban Land Agency for the Rivett block.
The planned building will hold about 150 parishioners and, if possible, would emulate the traditional architecture of the mother church in Kerala in southern India.
It would be funded by the community and a bank loan.
Mr George said that when plans were ready, the church would be talking to the Rivett community about the proposal.
The site is adjacent to the Kids Club Childcare Centre and the shops, with another church, the Reformed Church of Canberra, to the rear.
On the other side of the block is a bike and walking path and the Noah’s Ark Childcare Centre.
Another community-zoned block, between the shops and the oval, was sold a few years ago as a potential childcare site but is still vacant.
The church is an autonomous Oriental Orthodox denomination based in the Indian state of Kerala, and is part of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch.
There are also churches in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.