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McDougall Church hoping city can help with multimillion-dollar repairs

EDMONTON – Facing repairs estimated to cost between $8-12 million, parishioners at Edmonton’s historic McDougall United Church are turning to the city for help.

They would like the city to buy their building and rent it back to them for $1 per year.

“To me it’s a win-win situation. The city would acquire this prominent site, located at the top of the riverbank for a $1, and we – in turn- would have the rights of the use of the church for a $1,” said the church treasurer, Greg Greenough.

But the city, which dished out over $100,000 to the church in 2011 to help with re-roofing and other maintenance repairs, says it has to be careful with what buildings it chooses to take over.

“There’s no doubt that it’s a wonderful building with significant architectural heritage,” said Mayor Don Iveson. “The city has a program for heritage building restoration, but the needs of this building are so far and away beyond that program that I think some kind of innovative partnership’s going to be required.”

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The McDougall church in downtown Edmonton is in need of some pricey repairs. Global News
The McDougall church in downtown Edmonton is in need of some pricey repairs. Global News
The McDougall church in downtown Edmonton is in need of some pricey repairs. Global News
The McDougall church in downtown Edmonton is in need of some pricey repairs. Global News
The McDougall church in downtown Edmonton is in need of some pricey repairs. Global News

“I have real concerns about us getting into the business of restoring and upgrading religious assembly because there are many of them around the city; and I think the need would quickly outstrip our limited resources,” he added.

Greenough argues that the church, which has a history that spans more than a century, has many other uses. For instance, he says it plays host to more than 100 concerts each year.

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“As a…citizen of the City of Edmonton, I don’t think we should let it go,” he said.

On Wednesday, the matter was discussed at an executive committee meeting. Councillors were sympathetic, but hesitant.

Some raised questions about why regular maintenance hasn’t been done.

Greenough said the church just didn’t have the resources.

At the meeting, the mayor offered a possible solution: a foundation set up with a mandate to preserve the building, meaning no direct city involvement.

“So, a foundation could be the appropriate mechanism to help bring the partners together, raise some money…and it could be the steward of the building in the long term, which might be better than the city. ”

He also suggests an important step needs to be taken.

“I think people who really want to see building saved need apply some pressure to the church to pursue historical designation.”

The debate will continue later this year.

You can review the report which was discussed on Wednesday below:

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With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News

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