Former Vancouver church may get condo upgrade

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      A former church in Vancouver’s South Cambie neighbourhood may soon serve a more temporal purpose: as a home to condos.

      EDG Homes Inc. plans to reuse and extend the former house of worship at 809 West 23rd Avenue for six strata-titled homes, four of which will have basement units for rental.

      Heritage consultant Donald Luxton is working with the developer to convert the structure, built in 1927 as the home of the Oak Street United Church.

      “There’s a trend that has been happening that church buildings are coming up for other uses, and this one hasn’t really been used as a United Church in a very, very long time,” Luxton told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      According to Luxton, many churches are losing their congregations, becoming superfluous to their original spiritual purposes.

      “There’s a struggle out there to try and understand how to preserve them,” he noted.

      The planned redevelopment of the former West 23rd Avenue place of worship is a heritage project that will restore its original appearance.

      “The building doesn’t look like much right now, so I know people have questioned why you would do this as a heritage project,” Luxton said. “But I think once you see the plan, you get a sense that we’re returning it back to a much more appropriate appearance on the exterior that reflects its original design intention.”

      Based on a “statement of significance” prepared by Donald Luxton and Associates Inc., the property is “valued as an example of the community facilities that were constructed in Vancouver during the resurgent interwar period and for its 1920s ecclesiastical architecture”.

      The one-and-a-half-storey wood-frame hall with a front-gabled roof served as home for the Oak Street United Church, which changed its name to the Douglas Park United Church in 1928, for a decade.

      In 1937, according to the statement, the congregation left, amalgamating with the Chown United Church and moving to a new building on Cambie Street. The church then became the Douglas Park Regular Baptist Church until 1952, when the Vancouver Lodge of the Ancient and Mystical Order of Rosae Crucis took over. The Rosicrucians, who are members of a secret society but do not constitute a religious congregation, occupied the building until 2010.

      The open house regarding EDG Homes Inc.’s application to city hall to rezone the 8,435-square-foot property will be held at the Chown Memorial and Chinese United Church (3519 Cambie Street). The event is scheduled for Tuesday (September 29), from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

      Luxton is also working on another planned redevelopment that involves the First Baptist Church at 969 Burrard Street. In this venture by Westbank Projects Corp., the church will remain a place of worship.

      “There we’re starting with the church very intact. It’s a very different project. It’s putting a tower behind it,” Luxton said. “The church itself is retaining its use.”