Monday, November 28, 2022

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Graham, NC 27253
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Sale of First Christian UCC falls through when prospective owner’s first check bounces

QUESTION: What happened to the sale of First Christian United Church of Christ in Burlington?

ANSWER: The sale didn’t go through, the church treasurer, Ken Little, confirmed Tuesday for The Alamance News.

The intended buyer, whom Little identified as Sona Oliver of Charlotte, had offered $2,050,000, which he said was $50,000 more than the asking price of $2 million. Oliver wrote a check for $20,000, which Little said was a “due diligence” payment.

“The due diligence amount was refused for insufficient funds,” Little elaborated in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “We had an offer to purchase, but the contract was never completed. When the due diligence money failed to materialize, we canceled the contract.”

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Little said it’s his understanding that Oliver is “head of some organization in Charlotte and was going to move her headquarters here [to Burlington.”

“We had undertaken quite a project to get rid of unnecessary things [for the sale],” Little explained in the interview. “We were looking at a lot of expenses but were cautious enough not to go through with those expenses.” Little said the property will be put back up for sale again.

First Christian UCC claims to be the oldest Christian congregation in Burlington, dating back to 1884, according to the church. Construction of the original church, at the southeast corner of Church and Davis streets, was completed in 1893. That building burned, and its former site – across the street from the existing church at 415 South Church Street – is the current home of Davis Street Plaza.

First Christian UCC built a new sanctuary at 415 South Church Street in 1921 and later added two other buildings. “In the mid-1950s, we built the [three-story] education building, and in 1984, we built the office building,” Little told the newspaper Tuesday. “The sanctuary is just over 100 years old.”

[Story continues below historic photographs of the church.]


HISTORIC PHOTOS OF THE CHURCH


First Christian UCC in Burlington was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 and to the state Register of Historic Places around the same time, according to North Carolina Division of Archives and History.

First Christian UCC was nominated to be listed on the National Register due to its grand Neoclassical Revival style of architecture, then-deemed to be emblematic of “the growing prosperity of the city during the first three decades” of the 20th century, based on an application that a consultant for the city of Burlington (Claudia Roberts) submitted to the U.S. Department of the Interior in June 1983.

In a subsequent interview Wednesday morning, Little pointed out that any future sale will exclude the organ and six Italian-made stained glass windows in the sanctuary, which he said are valued around $40,000 each. The names of some of the more prominent (now deceased) church members, such as George Holt and Benjamin Sellars – who also were heads of the textile industry during its heyday in Burlington – are engraved in each of the six stained-glass windows.

[Story continues below photographs from the interior of the church.]


 THE INTERIOR OF THE CHURCH: STAINED GLASS WINDOWS AND PIPE ORGAN TO BE SAVED FROM ANY FUTURE BUILDING SALE

  


“A few years ago, the church had 500 members and was full of people,. But as time passes, people move away, and children move away, so we’re down to less than 100 people – 35,000 square feet is an awful lot for less than 100 people.

“We just need to find a smaller space. Once you start having to [keep up] that much space, expenses get a little heavy.

“We just need to find a smaller space. Once you start having to [keep up] that much space, expenses get a little heavy.

“I guess most mainstream churches have started having declining memberships. I guess the younger people don’t have much interest in going to church.”

– fIRST CHRISTIAN UCC TREASURER kEN lITTLE

The roof on the sanctuary needs new shingles, and the education building needs a new roof, which Little estimates will cost $40,000 each.

“I guess most mainstream churches have started having declining memberships,” Little remarked. “I guess the younger people don’t have much interest in going to church.”

Little, who said he has been a member of First Christian UCC since the 1970s and has served as its treasurer for about 10 years, recalled Wednesday that it had been a heart-wrenching decision to put the church up for sale. “When we made the decision, it was a drawn-out debate,” he explained. “A lot of people have some pretty close ties. It’s pretty traumatic to think about moving out of the church.”

Little said in the subsequent interview that he remains mystified about how the potential unraveled. “I’m really mystified at the motivation of the lady who gave us the offer [and wrote] us a check that didn’t have sufficient funds.”

The prospective buyer, Oliver, came to tour the property; wrote the church the $20,000 “due diligence” check (i.e., the equivalent of earnest money for a residential purchase); and the bank sent the church an email several days later saying the check was “no good,” Little told the newspaper Wednesday. Church officials gave Oliver 24 hours to make good on her purchase but “she never showed back up,” he said. Little identified the name of Oliver’s organization as ”Virginia Mae.”

Rev. Joy Allridge, who took over as the pastor at First Christian UCC in Burlington in May, seemed at peace with the fact that, for now, the future for her flock remains uncertain.

“I truly believe that all things work together for the good for those who are called according to His purpose,” Allridge said, paraphrasing Romans 8:28.

Oliver’s online resume lists her as being the CEO of Virginia Mae Financial Corporation, which she describes as a “community development financial corporation” whose mission is to “develop fair and equitable financing [and] increase wealth [in the] underserved community.”

The Alamance News has been unable to glean much information about Oliver, the would-be buyer, or the organization she had hoped to relocate from Charlotte. Nor was the newspaper able to locate a website for her company.

Oliver also had been listed as CEO of Oliver Compliance Consulting, a company involved in financial program development, based on articles of incorporation filed in 2014 with the Secretary of State’s office, which listed the address for its registered office as 909 Highland Mist Lane in Charlotte.

However, the Secretary of State later administratively dissolved Oliver Compliance Consulting for failure to file required annual reports, as well as failure to pay N.C. franchise, corporate income, and/or insurance taxes, according to documents on file with the Secretary of State’s office.

Oliver filed a civil suit against a mortgage servicing company, PHH Mortgage Corporation, in Mecklenburg County superior court in 2019 and subsequently appealed an unfavorable ruling in the case to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina and the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A three-judge panel for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected her appeal, concluding there had been “no reversible error” in dismissing Oliver’s civil suit, which had challenged the validity of a foreclosure sale, based on an opinion that the U.S. appellate court issued in December 2021.


Another historic downtown church also for sale; new owner requests rezoning to include restaurant at Davis Street United Methodist Church:

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