Vancouver’s Central Presbyterian Church at 1155 Thurlow St. looks at condo development

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Carlito Pablo

Building condos on top of a church isn’t heresy for Rev. Jim Smith.

According to the Presbyterian minister, his Vancouver congregation is pioneering this development concept, which he says could serve as a model for other urban-based churches.

“It’s a new way of being able to provide for the church to expand what we do,” Smith told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “This is being financed by the church with its property and the sale of the condos. And I think that they can coexist.”

Smith is the minister of the Central Presbyterian Church. The flock wants to redevelop its West End property on Thurlow Street into a 21-storey tower.

Based on an initial plan, the top 14 floors will be devoted to condos. The four storeys below are going to contain subsidized rentals geared mostly to seniors. The bottom three floors will house a new church and community spaces.

“We’re about community, and the West End is about community, isn’t it?” Smith said. “Rather than have some kind of a ghettoization where you have a building that is only exclusive, we anticipate and look forward to an interaction between all of the people that are in the building.”

Built in 1975, the current church is in use from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, according to the minister. Two other congregations share the facility. Various community groups also use the church, from a Montessori school to an Alcoholics Anonymous group.

“We just have no more time or space to make available to groups in the community,” Smith said.

The congregation intends to submit a letter of inquiry to city hall in early September as the next step in its redevelopment plan.

“We’ve been here for a hundred years,” Smith said. “We plan to be here for another hundred years, rather than sell the property, take the money, and run away. We want to stay.”

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