The Ladysmith Resource Centre Association (LRCA) has purchased the former St. John the Evangelist Anglican church and plans to redevelop the site to create upwards of 40 affordable housing units.
“This is such an exciting time and this purchase creates an opportunity for the LRCA to support the community while creating a social enterprise for the future of our organization,” said executive director Shannon Wilson.
The social housing project dedicated to seniors, adults with developmental disabilities and those struggling in the rental market is made possible as a result of a “significant bequeathment” left by Pat Edge – a longtime volunteer who passed away in June 2012.
A study conducted by the LRCA also in 2012 identified affordable housing as a key priority in town.
“We’ve had a vision for the project and when the property became available it just seemed so appropriate,” Wilson said. “Affordable housing is a real challenge in our community and so we’re just going to look at our options, as the LRCA always does, to try and meet the needs of the community.”
The Anglican church located at 314 Buller St. announced last April that 81 per cent of the congregation voted to ‘disestablish’ after 115 years in the community due to lack of funds and an aging membership.
Many of those 30 people now attend St. Philips Anglican Church which has grown to 60 parishioners.
Anglican Diocese of British Columbia spokesperson Catherine Pate said it supports the LRCA’s mission to create more affordable housing and many local parishioners volunteer with the food bank and other social programs run by the LRCA.
“Our hope is that we can continue to support them in what they’re doing in the local community…that we’ll strengthen our relationship with this new entity and bring our energy to what they’ve already got on the plan,” she said.
There were multiple offers made to purchase the property but the final agreed upon price between the LRCA and Diocese is not known.
Pate said ensuring that the church, which is listed on Ladysmith’s Community Heritage Register, would remain standing wasn’t part of the sale conditions.
“There isn’t an expectation or even a vain hope that it would remain standing,” she said. “It’s been really hard on those folks and this is another milestone along that way. This brings hope to people and it gives them energy to say that good things can still happen there (at the site of the church) and they can be a part of that.”
Earlier this year at the LRCA’s AGM the organization adopted a vision statement to be “the centre of social change in Ladysmith.”
”This is an incredibly exciting project for the association to be undertaking. It is unlike anything the LRCA has ever done and a great way to mark the association’s 25th year of serving the community,” said board president Marsh Stevens.
There’s been mention of a common meeting and green space to be incorporated within the project’s design but exact details are still in the very preliminary phases as the LRCA works with the town, funders and residents.
A rezoning application would also have to be submitted to the town for any major project.
“Now, what we really want to do is work with the community to create a vision for what that’s going to look like, and yes it will include affordable housing but it also might have some other community space as well,” Wilson said.