The Diocesan Office moved from St. Alban’s Ferreirastown, which was far too small to be a proper Diocesan Centre, to Darragh House in the 80s but the deteriorating environment around the Cathedral means that that too never really functioned as the Diocesan Centre.
When COACH informed the Trustees in 2005 that they wanted to sell St. Joseph’s Home, it was clear to all that it would be the ideal place for a proper Diocesan Centre. It was always recognised that money would be the problem. COACH expected R4m which they thought was a realistic market value. Renovating and equipping premises which had not really been used for many years would be a huge task and stretch the Trustees’ resources. It is extremely difficult to estimate the cost of renovating an old building and it normally happens that the cost over-runs the budget as new and unexpected problems so often come to light during the renovation process.
Over the first 85 years of the Diocese of Johannesburg, it had never been considered necessary to build up reserves within the Trustees. Such funds as were raised, largely from special appeals and bequests, were all committed to a specific purpose and were not available to be used for funding a Diocesan Centre.
In the event, the renovations cost R6m which means that the total cost that needed funding was approximately R10m plus the costs of being responsible for the property during planning and renovation. Finally the premises were finished and ready for occupation in March 2011and the first tenant – Provincial Publishing Department moved in. The Diocesan Office followed a few months later. The Centre receives income from the DFB for the Bishop’s office and the Diocesan office, from the Publishing Department and from Trevor Huddleston/ Vuleka Schools which occupy some of the other buildings on the site. This income is enough to cover the normal expenses but it will not be sufficient to cover the long term maintenance problems in an old heritage building, nor will it cover the cost of any major renovations or alteration that may be deemed necessary.
The Trustees have managed to collect R4m – some from the sale of other vacant properties and some from donations from parishes. There is still R5.9m to go!
The large majority of people who have used the Centre tell us that it is working as planned and achieving the goal of building community within the Diocese. So the wisdom of those who decided to step out in faith and commit us to using the historic building as a Diocesan Centre seems to be bearing fruit and the property is once again building God’s kingdom although not quite in the way intended by the original donors.