Four-storey building pitched to replace Fairfield United

Prayer and worship have a home in a proposal to redevelop the site of Fairfield United Church into a mixed-use residential development.

Unity Urban Properties has won the OK from Victoria city council to take its plan to a public hearing. It wants permission to build a four-storey building with 16 one- and two-bedroom rental apartments above a ground-floor church sanctuary and a commercial space such as a café.

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“I think this is the first one of these that we’ve seen and there may be more,” Mayor Lisa Helps said of the proposal to repurpose the church property in Fairfield’s Five Corners urban village.

“I think that this achieves so many things, as has been stated: rental housing, passive house [energy-use standards], commercial space, preserving the feeling of that village. And if this is the standard that is being set for church redevelopment, I’m very happy about that.”

Councillors asked that efforts be made to improve a tower element designed to pay homage to the church bell tower. “The concern that I have with it as it is presented is that it’s very disembodied from the building itself,” said Coun. Pam Madoff.

“It’s sad to lose the church building. The church and the tower are landmarks in the neighbourhood. Cities around the world are grappling with what to do with these old buildings and how to revitalize historic buildings,” said Coun. Jeremy Loveday, who supported sending the proposal to public hearing.

“I’d love to see as many of them as possible reinvigorated and repurposed while retaining the structure.”

Sixteen underground parking stalls are to be built, 30 fewer than would normally be required with a combined church, residential and commercial use.

The church currently has no parking spots.

Twenty secure bicycle stalls are to be included on the ground floor and 12 weather-protected stalls are to be near the residential and church sanctuary entrances.

The church, built in 1926, is not a heritage-designated building and it is not on the heritage registry. Under current zoning, it could be subdivided into two single-family residential lots or developed as a public building.

Declining attendance, higher maintenance costs and anticipated need for upgrades prompted the church to put the property, at 1303 Fairfield Rd., up for sale in 2016. The 300-seat church building and adjacent hall at Fairfield Road and Moss Street were sold for about $1.24-million in June 2016.

The property is across the street from Sir James Douglas Elementary School.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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