New Brunswick

Brutalist-style Moncton church rezoned to make way for new apartment building

The former Saint-Louis-de-France church in Moncton is being re-zoned by the city to allow for its demolition, with a new development to go in its place, despite an architect's plea for preservation.

Archbishop Valéry Vienneau said diocese needs money and would demolish the building regardless

The Saint-Louis-de-France church in Moncton closed its doors last year and will be demolished. But the church's bell tower will be incorporated into an apartment building planned to be built in its place. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

The former Saint-Louis-de-France church in Moncton will be demolished to make way for a new  "high end" 80-unit apartment building.

The church, located at 5 Pleasant St., closed its doors last year amid declining attendance, while the Catholic diocese was also facing financial difficulties. 

"Right now our financial situation is very precarious and difficult because of the whole question of sexual abuse issues by a few members in the 1960s until 1985," said Archbishop Valéry Vienneau at Monday night's city council meeting. He was referring to lawsuits and settlements in decades-old sexual abuse cases.

But John Leroux, manager of collections and exhibitions at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and a Fredericton architect, appealed to city councillors during the public hearing to reconsider the importance of the brutalist-style architecture.

Brutalism is a style characterized by simple forms and exposed concrete.

Brutalist architechture

"This is a city of resurgo, it's a city of giving things a second chance, its part of your legacy," Leroux said.

Leroux said the late architect, Gerry Gaudet was one of the first waves of Acadian architects to, "work in this city and design churches from within, from New Brunswick as opposed to going away to Quebec."

Valéry Vienneau, archbishop of the Diocese of Moncton, said the former church on Pleasant Street would be demolished whether council agreed to rezone the property or not. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

"It is probably the finest brutalist building in New Brunswick."

According to Leroux, the former Saint-Louis-de-France church was built in 1972, with the bell tower added three years later by Arcade Albert, another local architect.

Save the bell tower

In March, Moncton's planning advisory committee recommended council not proceed with the amendment to allow for rezoning, in part because of the building's unique architectural style, and to "preserve and strengthen significant sightlines."

John Leroux, architect and manager of collections and exhibitions at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, said the bell tower is one of the most important parts of the church. (Sarah Morin/CBC)

Albert Boudreau of Moncton-based  ATMJ Properties Inc., said he made changes to the design of the apartment building to change the roof. He also said he decided to incorporate the bell tower into his development, "in honour of the architects involved in the original design both the bell tower and the church."

Boudreau said he would have saved parts of the church too, if it was possible.

"There's not a lot you can do with it, it's a solid piece of concrete with no windows and does not work with today's energy efficiency."

Leroux said the concessions made by the developer were "reasonable."

"The bell tower in some ways, is actually one of the most important parts of the building. So that's why I don't feel quite so bad about what's happening to the building."

Leroux said the loss of this building is a moment people in Moncton can learn from.

Meanwhile, Coun. Paulette Theriault, said the Pleasant Street building does not have a heritage designation.

Albert Boudreau, with Moncton-based ATMJ Properties Inc., described the old church as a solid piece of concrete with no windows. He also said it doesn't work with today's energy efficiency. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

"We are concerned because we have not designated heritage buildings since the '90s, I believe. And we cannot do it because we don't have the resources to do it."  

Either way it would be torn down

Archbishop Valéry Vienneau said he was happy that council agreed to rezone the property the church is desperate to sell.

"We do want to keep the churches but we have to rationalize things, we have too many churches and we need to close some."

But he was clear when speaking to council, if the rezoning was denied, the diocese planned to have the church demolished.

Coun. Paulette Theriault says the Pleasant Street building does not have a heritage designation and the city doesn't have the resources to implement one.

Vienneau said, "keeping the church building diminishes the property's value significantly and will hinder the full development  of the lands."

The developer now plans to start construction by mid-summer and have the project done within a year.

with files from Shane Magee

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