Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/10/2015 (567 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A group of people from the city’s Muslim community want to breathe new life into an historic North End church building – by converting it into a mosque.
The only problem is any changes to the church’s interior are restricted by a historic designation on the building.
Mohammad Tariq, who represents the group wanting to buy the former St. Giles United Church, said the interior of the church isn’t physically set up as required for a mosque.
Tariq appeared before the downtown development, heritage and riverbank management committee Monday morning, requesting that the historic designation on the church be lifted so the new group can complete the purchase and gut the interior.
Tariq’s request is similar to that made earlier this year by the church’s current owner, the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada (CBWC), who said the delisting was necessary to complete a sale – most likely to a buyer who would demolish the building and redevelop the property.
Tariq said the group doesn’t want to demolish the building, but said the restrictions imposed by the historic designation would prevent it from becoming a mosque.
"We’d have to walk away," Tariq said.
The building was originally constructed in 1908 by the city’s first Presbyterian congregation, which later joined with United Church of Canada.
A once-bustling church community, membership declined and the UCC closed it in 1972 and sold it a year later to a Mennonite group. The Baptists have owned it since 1997, as home for the Bethlehem Aboriginal Fellowship.
But the Fellowship moved out in the spring, citing problems with the building’s roof.
The church is listed on the city’s historical buildings inventory. All of its exterior and the 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 city’s historical buildings and resource committee recommended against the Baptists’ request to remove the historical designation. The planning department endorsed the recommendation to keep the heritage designation.
But John Kiernan, director of the planning, property and development department, said he only learned of the Muslim interest in the building last week and requested time to work out details with them, adding it’s likely the listing could be modified to exempt the interior work and preserve the building’s exterior.
The Baptists put a tentative price of $150,000 on the church but have accepted a conditional offer of $100,000 from Tariq’s group.
Winnipeg needs another mosque to serve the city’s growing Muslim community, Tariq said, which he estimated to exceed 20,000 members.
Tariq said his group doesn’t plan any changes to the building’s exterior and would make the necessary repairs – to the roof, windows, and ceiling – which he estimated at $300,000 to $400,000 (the Baptists put the repair bill at $1.9 million) but they wanted to be free to gut the interior.
Members of the committee said the interest by the Muslim group is a positive development which could lead to saving the building.
"This sounds like a workable compromise," Coun. Brian Mayes, committee chairman, said