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This article was published 2/11/2015 (539 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Muslim group that wants to convert an historic North End church into a mosque says it will proceed with the purchase after being assured by civic planners they can make the necessary interior renovations without breaching the building’s historic designation.
Mohammad Tariq, who represents a group of local business leaders within the city’s Muslim community, said he’s prepared to accept the heritage designation on the former St. Giles United Church.
Tariq had requested city hall to remove the heritage designation but planning director John Kiernan said that won’t be necessary.
Kiernan said that after staff reviewed Tariq’s plans, it’s apparent the interior renovations can be carried out following the customary permit process.
The church is listed on the city’s inventory of historical buildings. All of its exterior and sanctuary, including the organ, have a protected designation that prevents demolition and requires a special permit for any construction work on the heritage elements.
The church’s current owner, the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada (CBWC) had made a formal request earlier in the year to remove the heritage designation, claiming it was necessary to facilitate the sale of the property and to maximize the development potential of the site, which might include demolition of the church.
Tariq came to city hall in early October and told members of the downtown development, heritage and riverbank management committee, that his group does not want to demolish the building – but does want to alter its interior to accommodate their faith requirements.
Tariq said his group would carry out work to preserve the church’s roof and exterior and said most of the interior changes would involve removal of the pews.
The committee formally rejected the CBWC’s request Monday morning to remove the heritage designation after being assured by Kiernan that the interior renovations can be carried out within the restrictions of the building’s heritage status.