Gothic arches plan

The original concept drawing for the Gothic Arches included 75 units, but was later scaled back to 26. (The Arch)

A Toronto developer who put Saint John's Gothic Arches back on the real estate market says the former church could be knocked down if a buyer isn't found.

"The fact of the matter is the building is probably worth more in pieces than it is whole, so that's been our Plan B," Jody McCairns said Tuesday in an interview with Information Morning Saint John.

"We hope to not execute on that contingency, but dealing in brick and mortar, land always has a value. In this case, some of the museum quality art pieces and a lot of the architectural salvage has value."

McCairns bought the property in 2012 and planned to turn the Gothic Arches into condominiums. The first 75-unit concept was scaled back a year ago to 26 units.

McCairns said he realized the concept had "run its course" when a request for proposals was denied by seven regional construction firms.

Patience is a virtue … But it does have its limits, we'll see, I hope not to test them - Jody McCairns, Gothic Arches owner

"We're looking to spend our energy on other projects. Hopefully we can hand off what we built so far to someone else," he said.

"We've owned it now for three and a half years, we've shown our resolve. Patience is a virtue and at this point I feel quite virtuous. But it does have its limits, we'll see, I hope not to test them."

Saint John doesn't have the same high demand for condominiums other parts of the country are experiencing, McCairns said.

But Saint John's municipal plan, designed to reel in urban sprawl, might drive up interest in these developments.

'Great opportunity'

McCairns says a lot of the heavy lifting has already been done on the Gothic Arches proposal.

"Quite a significant amount of work went into marketing and research. For anyone looking for a turnkey build project, I'd say this is a great opportunity."

The Gothic Arches is listed for sale, with McCairns as one of the real estate agents, at a listing price of $500,000. It was listed at $399,000 when McCairns purchased the property just over three years ago.

According to information obtained through the open data website, the selling price for the former church in November 2012 was $100,000.

A developer from Toronto is already showing some interest in the property, and there have been local inquiries.

"These projects are seems as highly viable because these are the kinds of buildings they get excited about," McCairns said.

"It's obviously been vacant for a few years, and anytime a building is left to the elements, time will take over. But we studied projects similar to this where buildings have sat 20 to 30 years and they have been completed successfully."

The imposing stone structure was built as a church in 1882, designed to seat 1,400 people. But by the late 1990s, the size of the congregation had shrunk to the point that it could no longer afford to maintain the property.

While a part of Saint John's heritage, the property is not protected by any heritage laws and it has been a struggle for subsequent owners to find a new use that would pay the bills.