Demolition prep begins at Church: WEN calls out neighbourhood to St John’s, 1401 Comox

West End Neighbours has issued an alert to its “Demolition Alert List” to peacefully demonstrate against the start of work to remove parts of St. John’s Church at 1401 Comox. Owners Westbank and Peterson (architect Henriquez) of Woodwards fame are awaiting approve of a full-scale demolition permit, but this is still subject to conditions.

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Workers have been on site today removing stained glass from St John’s Church at 1401 Comox. We have issued an alert to our “Bulldozer Brigade” of citizens opposed to this controversial rezoning and proposal to build a 22-storey tower on the site of this church.

The church site has been a center of community life for over 100 years. The current wood building is only 30 years old and fully capable of continuing to serve many uses in the community. West End Neighbours has asked the City to delay demolition by owners Westbank, Peterson (and architect Henriquez) to explore serious options to buy back the property for the community. We have not received any acknowledgement from the Mayor or City.

The basis for this rezoning (currently site is zoned for 6 stories, 1.5 FSR, and developer seeks 22 stories, 7 FSR) is the Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing (STIR) program, rammed through in 2009 with NO public consultation. It gives large incentives to the owners in return for building market-priced rental apartments. There are many things wrong with this project. For a start, Ian Gillespie who owns Westbank was involved in the creation of the STIR project (attended the invitation-only Mayor’s roundtable in April 2009, which resulted in creation of STIR). The WEN website has documented a long list of inappropriate actions by the proponents of the project since the first day the rezoning application came to light.

We are inviting concerned neighbours to come, bear witness and tie ribbons on the fence as a sign of peaceful public opposition to this whole project. St John’s church is symbolic of many problems city-wide right now concerning decisions about the use of land and community consultation processes.

Currently Westbank and Peterson only have permission “to alter the existing church building by removing the existing stain glass windows, the ‘Memorial Marker’ on the exterior lawn, the ‘roll of honour’ memorial tablet at the interior of the existing building.” The full-scale demolition permit has not yet been issued.

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