An architect’s rendering of the Brechin United Church redevelopment project at 2020 Estevan Rd. Nanaimo city council, at a meeting last Monday, unanimously approved a development permit. (VIA Architecture image/City of Nanaimo)

Church-led affordable housing project approved in Nanaimo

New, smaller church part of complex with 74 rental units including 38 affordable units

Work on a whole different kind of Brechin United Church can now begin.

Nanaimo city council, at a meeting last Monday, unanimously approved a development permit for the church, located at 2020 Estevan Rd.

A new, smaller church will be part of a five-storey complex with 74 rental units including 38 affordable housing units.

“Our team has received numerous positive comments,” said Linda Braid, a member of the church’s redevelopment team. “We have outstanding support from our congregation that they really want to see this happen.”

Of the 38 affordable units planned, there are 33 one-bedroom suites and five studio apartments. The affordable housing units are being provided in partnership with the Province of B.C. and are defined as having rents 33-40 per cent below the high end of comparable market housing rents.

Of the 36 market units being built, 25 will have two bedrooms, six will have three bedrooms and five will have one bedroom.

Plans call for the building to meet passive house certification for energy efficiency.

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Brechin Church asked the city for just one variance, to reduce the parking requirement from 143 spaces to 103. Of the parking that has been promised, 93 spaces will be underground.

Braid said both École Océane school and Midas automotive service centre across the street have offered the use of their parking lots, and she also noted that Brechin United Church has already implemented a ride-sharing program.

Coun. Bill Bestwick asked how the development might impact traffic at Brechin Road and Estevan Road, and the city’s director of community development, Dale Lindsay, replied that steps have been taken to accommodate a “longer-term” rebuild of that intersection. Lindsay said site access is as far as possible from the intersection, and a highway reservation area has been set aside for potential road realignment.

“Traffic in that intersection and the neighbouring intersection just down the road needs some more thought and more design, but steps have been taken here to preserve the road dedication and give us that ability to do that in the future,” he said.

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Coun. Ian Thorpe said the Brechin United Church redevelopment is a “worthwhile project” and applauded the church and congregation.

“I think this is another case where the value of the project overcomes, to me, any qualms that I might have about the variances,” he said. “There’s a lot to like about this.”

On Tuesday, the day after council voted to approve the development permit, fencing was installed around the church.

In an e-mail to the News Bulletin, Peggy Jensen, retired reverend, said site preparation will take place over the next two months, including salvage and reclamation, hazardous material assessment and demolition. Grading and excavation is slated for July and August, the foundation is scheduled be poured in August and September and construction is expected to take place between October 2018 and December 2019.

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