The Bellevue First Congregational Church has sold its 1.5-acre downtown property for $30 million to an investment group with ties to China, records show.
The church, which was founded in 1896, has held services on the corner of Northeast Eighth Street and 108th Avenue Northeast since 1901. Today it has about 500 members.
“We’ve been here for 112 years, but we are looking toward the future,” said Lead Pastor Kevin Brown. “This will really help us ensure the next 100 years of our urban ministry in Bellevue.”
King County records indicate the buyer is Plus Investment USA of Bellevue. The company’s chairman is Gang Liu and its president is Kevin Corbett, according to corporate records filed with the state.
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Plus Investment USA appears to be an affiliate of Plus Investment Ltd., which says on its Chinese-language website that it’s headquartered in Seattle and has additional offices in Beijing, Hong Kong and Savannah, Ga. The Chinese-language website lists Corbett as its Seattle contact person.
A source familiar with Plus Investment said it’s backed by capital from individuals in China.
The multinational investment company’s website says it is developing high-end real estate in both the Seattle area and China, and is the exclusive agent in China for Dale Chihuly’s glass artwork. It also procures private jets and yachts for customers in China, according to the website.
Corbett didn’t return requests for comment Monday. Kara Liu, listed as the manager of the company’s Bellevue office, forwarded requests to Corbett.
Zoning in the area allows towers up to 450 feet tall. City officials said they have no record of any outstanding land-use applications that would mark the first step in a property owner seeking permits to redevelop the site.
Brown said that after going through a three-year process, the church’s membership reached the difficult decision to sell.
Renovating the campus would have cost the church $13 million, according to a 2011 analysis by Seneca Group, a Seattle real-estate consulting firm. The campus consists of the church and an office building next door called Bradford Center that is leased by nonprofit groups.
At the time the church listed the property, it had insisted it wouldn’t sell until it found a new home.
On Monday, however, Brown said that even though the church completed the sale, it is still looking and negotiating for a new home that will fit its needs over the next 100 years.
The church has a lease-back arrangement with the buyer that gives the congregation more time to find a site that fulfills the members’ vision, he said.
“We’re engaging in cathedral thinking,” he said. “You don’t do it overnight, you do it long term.”
Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter @sbhatt