Central Presbyterian receives final city approval for 22-storey tower

This model represents Central Presbyterian Church's hopes for the future.

This model represents Central Presbyterian Church’s hopes for the future. City hall has just approved their plans.

This week we are doing stories about churches undergoing major redevelopment in downtown Vancouver (below), and in the city centres of New Westminster and Surrey (see accompanying story).

Central Presbyterian Church received final approval from Vancouver City Council Tuesday evening (July 15) for a major building project.

Central, located for the past 30 years across Thurlow Street from the back end of St. Paul’s Hospital, will now be able to proceed with demolition of the church and construction of a multi-use 22-storey tower on the site. The church will be levelled by January and the new tower will be in use about 18 months later.

It is one of three churches, within a few hundred metres of each other, at different stages in undertaking major urban renewal projects. One of the others is First Baptist, which is working through the city approval process, to redevelop property adjacent to its heritage-status edifice at Nelson and Burrard. The other is St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, across Nelson Street south from First, whose Wesley Place residential and church use tower was completed several years ago.

Central’s project is being done in partnership with Bosa Properties, which is currently engaged in a somewhat similar partnership with Christ the King Lutheran Church in Surrey. (See details on that project in the accompanying story about developments in New Westminster and Surrey.)

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Pastor Jim Smith says Central Presbyterian is bursting at the seams now.

Jim Smith, Central’s minister for the past 12 years, says the involvement with Bosa has been most helpful. “They are developers who understand church. The principals are of Catholic faith and they live their faith in the way they have worked with us,” he notes.

The first three above-ground storeys in the new tower will be for church and related use. There will also be commercial and retail space near the ground. Multi-level underground parking for church, commercial and residential use will form the base of the tower.

There will also be 45 units of non-market housing, mostly for seniors and managed by the church, above the church-commercial area. The remaining storeys above will be Bosa-marketed strata units.

Smith points out that the church facilities had become completely inadequate in recent years. The building houses two Presbyterian congregations and a community church which ministers to the West End LGBT community. Central and Galilee Presbyterian churches (the latter a Korean congregation) draw about 400 worshippers each weekend. Christ Alive, the community church, serves a few dozen people.

First Baptist Church

First Baptist is hoping to undergo some major redevelopment in the near future.

First Baptist Church is hoping to redevelop several adjacent lots in the near future.

Meanwhile, over at First Baptist, the church is working carefully to find an economically feasible way to redevelop the several lots it owns west and adjacent to its century-old building. Two of the lots are used for parking. One of two houses contains the ministry of Hobbit House and the other has rental units. A low-rise apartment building rounds out the church-owned properties.

Church officials say it is too soon and strictly speculative to try to envisage what would be built on the site. But the hope is that, among other things, it will fund a seismic upgrade and allow for expansion of its facilities to minister to the community in the West End and downtown Vancouver.

The church’s main physical feature is a 1,000 seat sanctuary which is well-filled many Sundays for two services of worship. Its community facility is Pinder Hall. Both the sanctuary and Pinder Hall must remain virtually untouched, in line with its heritage status. Other floors will be renovated for contemporary meeting and office use. And additional meeting spaces would be in a new tower, linked by glassed corridors to the church.

But apart from the building’s heritage status, it, like its church neighbours, is used for spiritual and community purposes seven days a week, from early in the morning to late at night.

Many of the aspirations of First Baptist have been sketched out in its Heart of the City website. Much of the envisioning is being coordinated by Carson Pue, the church’s executive director and former director of Arrow Leadership. He was unavailable for an interview as this story went to deadline, but others close to the project indicated the church has been assisted in its envisaging by the City of Vancouver’s West End Community Plan.

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