Old church begins anew in the heart of the city

Today, I decided to take advantage of the uncharacteristically gorgeous November weather (on a weekend no less!) and took to my bike. Naturally, I rode from my rental on the outskirts of Waterloo to Uptown.

Uptown is an exciting place for a city planning nerd like myself. Currently, there are at least four significant active construction sites in the Uptown core– the Perimeter Institute, the Bauer Lofts (mostly finished), and Jim Balsillie’s new school. The other significant one I was not aware of previous to today was the site of Knox Presbyterian Church (Erb and Caroline Sts.).  I learned that they are building an entirely new building on their current parking lot.

According to an article in The Record, the church made the decision to construct a new building due to the complex nature of the existing collection of buildings:

The current church is a complex consisting of a sanctuary, gym and office spaces located in a hodge-podge of buildings constructed in 1927, 1957 and 1973. It’s built on seven different levels, so it would have needed two elevators to make it entirely accessible for physically handicapped parishioners.

The new building, designed by Baird Sampson Neuert Architects, will have a 400-seat sanctuary and new, larger offices and classrooms. Overall the church’s floorspace will increase from 16 000 sq. ft. to 24 000 sq. ft. Unfortunatley, the old building will be completely demolished, which I think is a shame. However, they will be saving distinctive elements of the old building, such as the original stained glass windows, and integrating them into the new building. I guess we have to settle for these gestures at built heritage sometimes.

I am happy that this congregation is able to push forward with the construction of a new building that will better serve the needs of the community, as well as being completely accessible. However, the last part of the Record article truly warmed my heart.

Ashfield said the congregation considered moving to a 10-acre lot on the outskirts of town, but decided its place was in the city.

The church is across the road from Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

“We felt a spiritual component belongs in that mix,” he said. “This just fits.”

So many churches have made what I feel is an easy decision– to move to the outskirts of town where new big-box stores and subdivisions with young families dominate. Knox Waterloo, faced with such a decision, made the right one. As such, they will continue to be a landmark in Uptown Waterloo into the next century. I could not be more excited for the new building and for the congregation.

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