The Salvation Army is pleased St. John’s city council rejected a committee recommendation to designate two of its buildings as heritage properties.
Now the organization can move ahead with its plans for demolition and rebuilding, says the Army’s Maj. Ken Ritson, director of public relations.
The Salvation Army plans to incorporate design features of the two buildings — 12 and 18 Springdale Street, the Harbour Light Building and New Hope Community Centre, respectively — somehow in the larger structure it plans to build.
The Army doesn’t have a design yet, but is holding a design charrette later this year to allow the public to offer ideas and suggestions on what the building should be.
“The existing services that are actually operated out of the New Hope Community Centre would naturally be going into that building,” said Ritson. “We’re also looking at possibly relocating our family services, which is our food bank, perhaps our correctional services, and there would be some administration that would possibly be included in that building.”
What the Salvation Army wants is a purpose-built building with a “holistic approach” that meets clients at their point of need, said Ritson.
“When you think of that, naturally you want something that’s wheelchair accessible, meeting today’s standards,” he said, adding that. “In that building we actually have different clinics that go on, such as an addictions program, we have a foot-care clinic, primary care … We have feeding programs that are going on in those buildings. And we’re looking at new options as well.”
But the Newfoundland and Labrador Historic Trust decried the imminent demolition of the buildings.
“We need city council to start listening to the recommendations of their heritage advisory committee,” said Deborah O’Rielly, the trust’s executive director. “They’ve convened a panel of experts in the field. The last council did it, this council seems to be doing it — they’re just ignoring the recommendations and making decisions based on I don’t know what. It seems this time they’re basing it on the fact the Salvation Army does good work. We agree — we don’t disagree that Salvation Army does good work — but these buildings are what we’re advocating for.”
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O’Rielly said the Salvation’s Army’s assurance it will incorporate design features from the current structures into a new building is not good enough.
“The buildings that are there are the things that need to be restored, repaired, and not replaced and filled in with something that looks like it used to be there,” she said. “Heritage is not something that you can take away, destroy and then put a picture up and say ‘this is what it used to look like.’”
Ritson said flooding in February due to a burst pipe in the New Hope centre may speed up how quickly they get to work on the new building.
“We want to do the demolition as soon as possible, because that’s the first step in the process,” he said. “The next step is to look at design and that now, and exactly what’s going to go in the building, because originally when we started we were looking at 10 [affordable housings] units going in there, and now there’s the possibility there could be more than that, even maybe as many as 20 units.”
“The important fact is that we want to stay in the downtown core,” said Ritson. “The people want it in that downtown core, because that’s where our stakeholders all are, and our clients are all there, and we want to be able to help them in their neighbourhood.