Hamilton Council has sent the issue of the future of St Giles Church back to the planning committee to allow Councillor Nrinder Nann a chance to work with the developers and the Friends of St. Giles, who are concerned the historic church will be demolished. Clr. Nann said that she had held extensive talks with The United Property Resource Corporation (UPRC), the real estate wing of the United Church of Canada, who actually are the owner of the property and New Vision United Church, which is the amalgamation of the St. Giles congregation and that of Centenary United in downtown Hamilton. She told councillors she is confident there can be a solution that would allow for at least some of the neo-gothic 1912 building to be preserved, and she asked councillors to allow her a chance to broker a solution. New Vision has plans to build an apartment complex on the site and has promised there would be a number of affordable units included in the plan. Nann had said in the past that affordable housing would trump other considerations in her view, but that she was willing to try to bring about a compromise.
Councillor Farr hinted that there was a potential third party willing to purchase the property and develop even more housing than the New Vision concept but provided no specifics. He proposed that council have St, Giles added to the municipal heritage registry, as a further safeguard against demolition. Such a designation calls for a 60-day cooling-off period before demolition can proceed. This led to an exchange with Clr. Nann who said such a move would damage a fragile state of trust between the parties, just as a possible solution was under discussion. She declared that if another demolition permit request was made, she would be happy to move for the 60 day designation.
Clr. Sam Merulla supported the designation saying that he did not trust the developers after it was learned they had re-applied for a demolition permit the same morning earlier this month, that they were appearing before the planning committee. The last-minute issuance of the demolition permit was explained by Jason Thorne, GM of Panning and Development, who told councillors that New Vision had received a demolition permit in 2018, but it had expired, due to inactivity. A notice was sent out to New Vision, but it was sent to the abandoned St. Giles Church and was not received by the developer. The developer only learned they did not have a valid demolition permit by reading about it in the Spectator, hence the last-minute application. Still, in the uproar that ensued, New Vision and UPRC hastily withdrew the demolition application.
In a letter to council UPRC endeavored to set a few issues straight, pointing out that they had been given a demolition permit without conditions in 2018. News coverage of that meeting indicated that staff had recommended a heritage designation, but Planning Committee and Council rejected the designation after pleas from Rev. Ian Sloan of the New Vision congregation which included remnants of the St Giles flock. “Something had to be done with one building … so the other one can remain standing,” he said.
In the end Council voted to allow the matter to be sent back for further study without imposing the heritage restriction.