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Tense standoff over future of St Giles Church

Tense standoff over future of St Giles Church

The impasse over the future of the historic St Giles Church property at Main Street East and Holton Avenue continues. It took the  Hamilton Municipal Heritage Committee eight months  to respond to a letter from Rev. Ian Sloan of New Vision United Church, which owns St Giles as well as the former Centenary United Church in downtown Hamilton. The two churches amalgamated a few years ago in the face of the declining  attendance that has threatened a number of the old mainstream Protestant churchs in Canada. New Vision wants to demolish St Giles and replace it with housing, some of which would be affordable.

In a letter last June Dr. Sloan complained that The Heritage Committee had acted disrespectfully in asking council to place St Giles on the Register of Properties of Cultural Value or Interest—a move that provides a 60-day cooling off period between the issuing of a demolition permit and the commencement of the demolition. He referred to the committee’s action as “a disrespect which we have felt we have experienced as early as our first delegation to the Committee in 2014.”

In response to Sloan’s letter, Hamilton Municipal Heritage Committee Chair Alissa Denham-Robinson noted that the heritage committee had actively supported fast-tracking New Vision’s plan to redevelop the Centenary property in downtown Hamilton, which will see the church preserved and converted into a concert hall but also calls for apartments to be built on the land. The Committee offered its support, wrote Denham-Robinson, “so that you could access municipal  funding  through  their  grants  and  loans  program  and  promote  this  heritage property  as  a  tourist  attraction and  revenue  generating,  music  and  entertainment  venue.”

The two letters were similar in the sense that they both contained friendly salutations and concluding paragraphs that talked about future cooperation; but there was a good deal of clenched teeth in between. The correspondence can be accessed here.

At issue is whether or not the St Giles building can be preserved in some form of adaptive reuse. New vision has stated that to preserve the building it would be necessary to build a 25-storey apartment tower on the site. What they are currently proposing is a six story apartment building, 19 townhouses and four three story walk-ups producing 12 units for a total of 61 housing units—30 percent of which would be deemed affordable. Sloan said they were unable to find a builder that would be willing to take on a project that involved saving the building, although Hamilton affordable housing developer, Indwell offered to look at the project. Indwell has plans to put affordable housing units in the former Wentworth Baptist Church.

Further reading:

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