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Knox United Church asks City of Saskatoon for help to sell parking lot

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WATCH: Plans to build a condo between two historic churches in Saskatoon took another step forward, but protecting that heritage has caused some speed bumps along the way – Dec 8, 2020

The board of Knox United Church is asking the City of Saskatoon to change a bylaw so it can sell its parking lot to the construction firm planning to build a 19-storey high-rise next door.

A board member said the church wants to sell the property to fulfill a deal with Meridian Development Corp. so the church can earn more money.

“Knox needs to try to arrange this (deal) so it can augment its income on a more flexible, permanent, inflation-adjusted basis in the future,” Marcel De La Gorgendiere said over the phone.

Read more: Proposed downtown condo leaves Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee with mixed feelings

A letter to the committee stated the church’s congregation and financial resources are shrinking.

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The city designated the entire lot, which contains the church and a parking lot, as a municipal heritage site in 2003. De La Gorgendiere said the board wants the lot subdivided so the church retains its protected status and the parking lot, which has “no direct historical attachment to the church,” can be sold.

De La Gorgendiere told the committee the church entered into an agreement with the developer to sell the parking lot five years ago. Meridian will build 40 covered, heated parking stalls and the revenue from those stalls would go to the church, he said.

“The board of Knox is confident its arrangement with Meridian, which has a record of being part of respectful development of historic properties in Saskatoon, will work to the advantage of the whole community,” he said.

But the project and the process have raised the ire of different historical groups in the city.

Peggy Sarjeant, president of the Saskatoon Heritage Society, told the committee the proposed “will have a negative impact on the heritage value of both churches by overwhelming them and diminishing their status as Saskatoon landmarks.”

Read more: Former McNab Park residents, Saskatoon Heritage Society want area’s history recognized

The second church is St. John’s Cathedral, a few metres south of Knox United. Meridian plans to build the 19-storey building between the two churches.

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Bertrand Bartake, an architect with Kindrachuk Agrey Architecture, which is working with Meridian on the project, said none of the church’s “character-defining elements” would be affected during construction or when the new high-rise is built.

He said a vote against amending the bylaw “would essentially be supporting the notion of a heritage-designated parking lot.”

The committee voted to send the matter to city council, which will likely discuss the matter in January. Municipal law requires a public hearing to take place before such an amendment can be made.

Coun. Hilary Gough said she would speak at the future council meeting to ask how the city can better distinguish between a historic structure and the property that structure is on and to explore the use of new tools related to construction around historical properties.

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