New Brunswick

Gothic Arches sold to Toronto developer

The historic Gothic Arches building in Saint John's south end has been saved from the wrecking ball by a Toronto developer.

Plans to convert historic building into condos, community centre

The historic Gothic Arches building in Saint John's south end has been saved from the wrecking ball by a Toronto developer.

Jody McCairns has purchased the 130-year-old former church and current performance space with plans to turn it into condos and a community centre.

The building has a lot of potential, said McCairns, who currently works as a construction project manager in Toronto, but plans to move to Saint John to oversee his first development undertaking.

"The architecture speaks for itself. You know, given its age and the history of the city, it just lends itself well to my vision of repurposing architecture," he said.

"But the people and the landscape and culture and vibrancy that exists in Saint John is something that really appeals to us personally and we'd like to tap into that and call it home."

The Gothic Arches, formally known as the Centenary-Queen Square United Church, has been on the market for about four years.

The latest listed price was $399,000, said real estate agent Bob McVicar. He declined to reveal the selling price.

Philip Huggard bought the building more than a decade ago to save it from being demolished. The building, located at 95 Wentworth St., sits outside a designated heritage zone and isn't protected from demolition.

Huggard turned the massive building into a performing arts centre and rented out space to various groups offering everything from flea markets to antiques.

But in June, Huggard told CBC News maintenance costs, property taxes and an annual heating bill of $20,000 were making it difficult to keep the building open.

Shovels in the ground within one year

"Gothic Arches sort of found me, in a sense," said McCairns.

"I was looking nation-wide for institutional properties that might be better served as developments rather than in their present state and couldn’t really get it out of my head," he said, citing the grandeur of the building and its architectural detail, such as stained glass windows.

"So [my wife and I] turned our Maritime vacation into a working vacation and came out to visit the site and since then it’s been keeping me up at night and I finally decided that it was time to make a move."

McCairns anticipates spending about a year planning how to convert the church space into condos, and church hall into a community centre, "keeping the integrity of the structure intact and just sort of highlighting what's there."

He expects construction will take about a year and that the challenges will be "limitless."

"It’s a daunting task, but I’m sure we’ll get through it. Saint John offers some quality architects and some quality engineers and some quality craftsman that I’m sure with the help of some subject matter experts, we’ll get through it," he said.