St. John's city council has cleared the way for the Salvation Army to demolish its downtown buildings and erect a new building to serve some of the city's neediest residents, despite a push from the city's heritage committee to save them.
The Salvation Army says its two properties on Springdale Street have fallen into such disrepair that they should be replaced. The organization, which provides basic services to more than 500 people from the site, wants to replace them with a building between eight and 10 storeys in height.
The city's heritage advisory committee, though, thinks the buildings are valuable enough to be preserved. The older building, which was known for many years as the home of the Harbour Light, was finished in 1908, but has been vacant for the last decade.
Lane told CBC News that there has been pressure for the city to make a quick decision because of a funding deadline that needs to be met in just a few weeks.
"We've been going through that process but we're a little pressured right now because the Salvation Army has funding under the homelessness partnering strategy to spend by March 31," he said.
"So it's a bit of rush, because once you destroy something it's gone forever."
Other councillors felt that in this case it is more important to let the Salvation Army create the building it needs to provide services than preserve the heritage of its crumbling structures.
"I can't stand by and let the project be put in jeopardy and my understanding is that the project would be put into jeopardy if we don't follow the process that we have been asked to follow," said Coun. Tom Hann.
'Outlived its usefulness'
The Salvation Army says the new structure will allow the church to better meet a growing need for education, training and social services that it provides through its programs.
One of the buildings was damaged several weeks ago after a pipe burst.
In a statement. Maj. Ken Ritson of the Salvation Army said the old Harbour Light building had "outlived its usefulness" and needs to be replaced.
"It will be demolished in order for the Salvation Army to chart the way forward for the next 100 years, providing humanitarian service to individuals who depend on us every day," Ritson said.
The Salvation Army said the new centre will include space for affordable supportive housing.