It was the home of this church congregation for more than five decades: now the old St. Catharines Central Community Church can be demolished and replaced with a three-storey townhouse development.
The City of St. Catharines recently held an open house and heard from the planning team behind a proposed development for the site of the former church at 240 Scott Street.
According to Bill Markham, senior pastor of Central Community Church, a developer purchased the property three years ago as the congregation began planning a fundraiser and building a new, state-of-the-art facility to accommodate its growing membership.
“There was no interest in preserving the space,” he said of the Scott Street Church. “This poor building is literally falling apart.”
While there’s a certain nostalgia associated with the church they’ve gathered in since 1969, Markham said, the building was never designed with grand, enduring architecture in mind.
“The nostalgia is more in the community and not in the building,” he said.
Scott Street Holdings Inc. submitted an application for the development proposal, which would include amendments to the city’s official plan and zoning bylaws, to the City of St. Catharines. The city held its Development Plans Open House on April 27.
Bruce Hall, planning consultant with The Planning Partnership and a member of the project’s planning team, shared that the neighborhood project will consist of two 20-story residential apartment buildings linked at the base and three stacked townhouse blocks. along Scott and Genevea streets, for a total of 369 units.
One of three townhouses would be built at the approximate location of the church, surrounded by landscaping.
As the proposal is still in the public consultation stage, there is no timeline on when the townhouse will replace the church.
The church was built and opened in 1969 to serve the congregation of Central Community Church, which began in 1921 in St. Catharines, founded by Mabel Cunningham.
Cunningham opened the church after his daughter caught diphtheria, a life-threatening bacterial infection for which a vaccine was not introduced until 1926. According to the story shared by worshipers over the years, including Markham, his daughter managed to recover, which they attributed to Cunningham’s diligent prayers.
After meeting in various places in St. Catharines for nearly 50 years, including Cunningham’s home, then a downtown distillery, followed by what is now Westview Christian Fellowship, they settled in the Scott Street Church.
The congregation met for the last time at St. Catharines Church on Good Friday, April 15.
Markham said it was beautiful and symbolically marked the journey of the congregation, as they held their first Sunday service in the new building the following Easter Sunday: an end, followed by a new beginning.
“In our worldview, we don’t believe in ends,” he said. “We were saying goodbye to the building we were grateful for…but we were also celebrating a transition.