An update from the Friends of St. Giles

An update from The Friends of St. Giles
Sent to Mayor Eisenberger and Hamilton City Council
April 13th, 2021

Dear Mayor Eisenberger and Hamilton City Council,

Yesterday morning [April 12th], as a requested follow-up to last week’s Hamilton Planning Committee meeting, the Friends of St. Giles met virtually with Ward 3 councillor Nrinder Nann. At the meeting, we presented two different avenues for adaptive re-use of the historic St. Giles into UPRC/New Vision’s development plan for mixed market rent and affordable housing.

Despite repeated attempts, since 2018, to contact New Vision — both via Rev. Ian Sloan and their partner, Cobalt Connects — we have been unable to engage them in direct conversations with community members. In this time, New Vision has communicated with the community primarily through the media and Ward 3 office.

Potential funding avenues

This past week on our own initiative, we researched two possible funding avenues through grants or community partnerships. We did so to help demonstrate what is possible, with some creativity and a mindset for adaptive re-use.

FUNDING POSSIBILITIES:
  • Hamilton Heritage Property Grant Program
  • Hamilton Heritage Conservation Grant Program
  • Hamilton Community Heritage Fund Loan Program
  • Commercial Property Improvement Grant Program

In our 90 minute discussion with Councillor Nann on April 12th, we presented both options for further exploration.

Opportunities for further exploration

This is what we managed to find as a community group in the past week alone. Because many of these options require the site plan to be drawn up in order to submit funding applications, we are asking for heritage designation at this time (Notice of Intention to Designate).

St. Giles must continue to stand in order to reach the stage where funding options can be found to make adaptive re-use a concrete possibility.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of communication from New Vision and UPRC, we have so far been unable to propose this directly to them.

We support affordable housing in Ward 3 and have shown examples in Ontario where an adaptive reuse of a historically important site has been included in a cost efficient way to make that happen.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS WITH ADAPTIVE REUSE:
  • St. Thomas Lofts, Waterdown
  • Dalhousie Church Lofts, Brantford
  • Brant Avenue United Church / Brant Avenue Church Apartments, Brantford
  • Weston Park Baptist, Toronto
  • St. Mark’s Lutheran, Kitchener (Indwell)
  • St. Peter’s Lutheran, Kitchener (Indwell)

COMMUNITY HUBS WITH ADAPTIVE REUSE:

  • St. Mark’s Anglican, Hamilton
  • St. Peter’s Community Centre, Hamilton
  • Grimsby Benevolent Fund Wellness Hub, Grimsby
  • Augustine United Church, Winnipeg (including shelter space)
  • Berkeley Church, Toronto
  • All Saints community-driven event space, Ottawa
  • Westboro United Church / Festival House (Bluesfest), Ottawa
  • Dominion-Chalmers United Church / Carleton Dominon-Chalmers Centre, Ottawa
  • Glebe CommunitCentre, Ottawa (St. James United Church – post-merger)

[Our position statement was] presented by Dr. Sheehan in yesterday’s meeting with Councillor Nann, in which we illustrated examples of successful adaptive reuse of former churches into affordable housing.

We understand our Ward 3 councillor’s drive to champion the promised 30 affordable units and support the great need to create more affordable housing.

We would be thrilled if we could contribute in some small way towards the vision of affordable housing in Ward 3, by including St. Giles — one of Hamilton’s most important works of architecture — in the future of the city.

St. Giles is a truly unique part of Hamilton’s historic architecture and is an important anchor in the east-central lower city. The most positive and active way to honour this place, built by and for the community, is to adaptively re-use St. Giles for a future purpose — so it can continue in its service to the community.

The opportunity before us

On April 14th, 2021, we ask that you support the Planning Committee’s motion for a Notice of Intention to Designate St. Giles. This will allow time to pursue the two roads to make adaptive re-use a fiscal possibility in the future development, and further explore partnerships and grants; look what we have discovered in just a week as community volunteers — imagine the possibilities if New Vision, UPRC, and their partners were committed to adaptive re-use!

As community members, volunteers, and Ward 3 residents, we ask that:

  • New Vision, UPRC, and their partners be open to these avenues and commit to not applying for a 3rd demolition permit — the community does not support demolition, as the 1025+ signatures on the Petition to Save St. Giles demonstrate [nearly 1,200] (https://www.change.org/p/hamilton-city-councillors-and-mayor-eisenberger-save-st- giles-church-hamilton)
  • New Vision, UPRC, and their partners support designation of this important property
  • Hamilton City Councillors vote in favour of designation (Notice of Intention to Designate), to help propel this forward in a timely manner

Respected councillors, thank you for your time in considering this matter.

Church conversions offer an exciting model for developer, congregation, and community to work together to preserve the historic church structure AND build affordable housing.

The Friends of St. Giles are excited to work together in partnership with the Ward 3 councillor, city staff, and the developer to arrive at creative solutions that allow us to preserve this truly irreplaceable heritage building while incorporating it into a mix of affordable housing and a potential community hub.

We look forward to continuing the conversation with you on this. Thank you.

Sincerely,

The Friends of St. Giles
Ward 3, Hamilton
stgilesfriends@gmail.com
FriendsofStGiles.ca

How you can help #SaveStGiles
  • You can sign the petition to #SaveStGiles here
  • Write to your councillor before April 14th, and let them know you support adaptive re-use of St. Giles church, and want to save it from demolition.

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