Rezoning would allow for Brechin church redevelopment

Plans are advancing to build apartments on the Brechin United Church property on Estevan Road

The church on Brechin hill could be changing with the times.

Plans are advancing to redevelop the Brechin United Church property on Estevan Road, after city councillors allowed a zoning amendment to pass third reading following a public hearing May 29.

The church wishes to construct a five-storey, 74-unit apartment building with a two-storey church.

“We have received much positive feedback; we have a congregation that is extremely excited. We have also received some negative feedback,” said Maranatha Coulas, architect with Via Architecture.

She said Brechin and Estevan roads separate the site from immediate neighbours.

“Therefore, we feel it is ideally positioned as an opportunity to locate density in a transition site between the commercial corridor and smaller-scale residential uses adjacent,” said Coulas.

Reverend Sally Bullas said the idea of the redevelopment project feels like a gift to the church and one that can be shared with the community.

“We can build a church space that is invitational, flexible, multipurpose and healthier for the environment,” she said. “The new build will enhance our ability to nurture the spirit and engage with the community as an outreach centre and vibrant community hub.”

Neighbours, including a church member, spoke against the project, concerned that the building’s proposed height isn’t suitable for the area. There were also questions about increased traffic at the intersection and parking concerns.

“I’d like to see this go forward, but parking is a huge issue in this community…” said Coun. Gord Fuller, speaking to the architect. “Hopefully you can address that better than it’s been addressed, because 98 parking stalls for 70-some units, and then you plan to have people come for church? That could be interesting.”

Coulas said plans include some new on-street parking and said the church is pursuing agreements to use “adjacent under-utilized parking lots” for weekend church services.

Coun. Bill Bestwick asked about signal upgrades at the intersection and staff advised that that had been considered and determined to be unnecessary.

The proposed development includes 36 units of market rental housing and 38 units of affordable rental housing and the church would account for approximately 10 per cent of the building space. The project would be built to passive-house standards for insulation and energy efficiency.

Promised community contributions include the church and affordable housing components, as well as sidewalk improvements, a transit shelter and $36,000 for the city’s housing legacy fund.

After re-zoning, the project’s public process would continue with the development design stage.

“It seems like an exciting vision,” said Coun. Ian Thorpe.

For a previous article on the project, please click here.

Nanaimo News Bulletin