One of Vancouver's oldest church congregations wants to build a 56-storey residential tower on the corner of Nelson and Burrard Street in order to fund seismic upgrades for the 105-year old church.

Leaders at First Baptist Church say selling the surrounding land to developers was the only way the church could afford the $16 million upgrades it badly needed.

The development, built in partnership by Westbank and Bing Thom Architects, will not only create 300 residential units, but also 66 below-market-rate rental units, community gardens, and space for other social services.

"We really want to build a space that is inviting to the community and that is caring for the community," said Abraham Han, executive minister at First Baptist Church.

"We're looking at seniors, street community, young families, refugees, people who are coming from different countries so ESL programs. We're looking at all those things including affordable housing."

The development will also include a shelter, daycare, and kitchens for the homeless.

"We want to provide the ability for people to live in the city and not be pushed out," said Han.

The city is holding a public information session on the development tonight at 6:00 p.m. at First Baptist Church on 969 Burrard Street.

The church is currently waiting for city approval on its rezoning application.

Balancing the new with the old

first baptist church vancouver

The 105-year old building, owned by First Baptist Church, needs seismic upgrades that will cost up to $16 million, say church leaders. (Google Maps)

Two towers will be built around the church but the heritage building itself will stay where it is and be restored, said Han.

"It's a heritage building, we're wanting to restore it, but keep as much of the original building as much as possible."

The church has been a part of the West End community for 129 years and change in the community is inevitable, said Han.

"We're working with architects that are intentional about understanding who we are as a community, what Vancouver is like as a community," he said.

"And not to change that but to understand that we're progressing and moving forward with the roots in the history."

To listen to the full interview, click the link labelled: Church wants to build tower to fund revitalization.