Soaring cost of repairs could spell the end for historic Edmonton church

WATCH ABOVE: The future of McDougall church is in jeopardy. As Lisa Wolansky reports, with a bill stretching into the millions, some wonder what can be done to save it.

EDMONTON – McDougall United Church, which is more than 100 years old, could be demolished if money for repairs isn’t found.

A city report shows the cost of repairing the downtown church has more than doubled.

The bill is now estimated to be between $18.4 million and $25.5 million.

“It’s a little bit surprising,” said councillor Andrew Knack, “and it’s a little bit concerning.”

It’s a price tag the church’s congregation of about 140 people says they cannot pay. They’ve asked the city to step in to save the historic building.

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Knack said Friday the city will have to decide whether or not to give the church historical designation before it can make a decision about paying for the repairs. Even then, he said, it could be too costly.

“What we’ll have to explore is: is there a way to preserve some aspects of the building, something like that, versus the entire building itself, because it just doesn’t sound like there’s any interested parties in purchasing the site any more.”

The official historical designation would give the city access to some funds, but not enough to preserve the entire building.

“Realistically, the city is not going to be able to take on $18 million to repair that building,” said Knack.

“It’s frustrating that we got to that point, of course… We hate to see historical buildings go.”

The church previously worked with the city to have consultants come in and assess the structural integrity of the building.

McDougall United Church, Feb. 20, 2015. Lisa Wolansky, Global News
McDougall United Church, Feb. 20, 2015. Lisa Wolansky, Global News
McDougall United Church, Feb. 20, 2015. Lisa Wolansky, Global News
McDougall United Church, Feb. 20, 2015. Lisa Wolansky, Global News

“We’ve escalated costs and this is much more extensive,” explained Greg Greenough, a board chair with McDougall. “For instance, the boiler system is from day one, the electrical system is from day one… It goes on and on and on. We’ve been blessed that we’ve been able to maintain the building as well as it’s done for the last years.”

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There have also been significant issues with the roof and drainage.

“The building as we know it was built in 1910 but its roots go back to the 1800s.”

“It’s very important, in my estimation, to the citizens of Edmonton that we do all we can to preserve it,” said Greenough.

READ MORE: McDougall church hoping city can help with multimillion-dollar repairs 

In January 2014, McDougall members wanted the city to buy the church for $1 and then rent it for $1 per year. That way, the city would be responsible for renovations on the historic building.

Greenough said the church considered seeking historical designation in the past, but decided against it.

“The city has a designation of historical status. They will give you that in return for certain monies, but the obligation of that is they put a caveat on your title,” he explained. “The church has chosen … that wouldn’t be in their advantage.”

The city will discuss the issue at an executive committee meeting on Tuesday.

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