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Property sale could fund Holy Trinity restoration
Holy Trinity Cathedral is a monument to New Westminster’s past.
But to restore it to its former glory may require a modern solution.
The Anglican/Episcopalian church sits regally perched above Downtown at the top of Church Street.
It’s tucked away, surrounded by the police station, a nightclub, the Columbia SkyTrain station and high rises.
And now the congregation is hoping the city will be open to the idea of a plan that would put a residential tower on the site, and help them fix their church.
Holy Trinity is proposing to subdivide its property and sell the land where its current hall (built in 1950) and parking lot are located to a developer. But to do that they must forge a heritage revitalization agreement (HRA) with the city.
John Bailey, co-chair of the church’s revitalization committee, said the city excluded the church when it pegged the land around the SkyTrain station for high density.
“Everyone else’s property was given that but ours,” said Bailey.
Holy Trinity first held services in 1859. The original structure burned down in 1865. The next structure was also a victim of the Great Fire of 1898 but some of it survived and remains part of the existing building.
Today, the church needs costly structural and seismic upgrades. Its roof, brickwork and many beautiful stained glass windows require freshening up.
Bailey said selling the entire property isn’t an option because of its heritage value. Nor is building a new one.
“From the church’s perspective it would be cheaper to rebuild,” said Bailey. “Cities want to preserve history but it comes at a tremendous cost.”
No federal or provincial funds are available to restore Holy Trinity, said Bailey. The only way he can see to fund the restoration is to sell the rest of the property. The church has hired well-known heritage resource management consultant Donald Luxton to help prepare its case.
Bailey wouldn’t say how much they think they might get for the land, but he believes it would cover the restoration cost. Any deal would have to include space for the church’s office, gathering areas and parking in the new building.
Bailey and co-chair Garret James presented the plan to the Diocese of New Westminster’s new bishop Melissa Skelton last week and to the congregation Sunday.
“The church never likes to sell land, but we will still be an owner of land, but not all of it,” said Bailey.
The diocese has loaned the congregation $700,000 to fund the process. Bailey expects to take it to the city’s planning department in the next couple of weeks. Getting an agreement approved would reduce the risk for a developer, making the property more marketable, said Bailey.
City heritage planner Julie Schueck said there have been some discussions with the church but they do not have a formal application yet.
She said an HRA is one the tools the city can use to retain heritage and is powerful because it can apply to any kind of site from a house to a large building.