Former Saint-Charles church sold by Archdiocese of Ottawa

The former Saint-Charles church in Vanier has been sold by the Archdiocese of Ottawa.

The sale generated a net profit of about $4 million for the archdiocese and the two francophone parishes that owned the church: Marie-Médiatrice and Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes.

In an emailed statement Monday, the archdiocese said the new owner “intends to develop the site for a mixed-use residential and commercial project, including a creative re-purposing of the former church building.”

The proceeds of the sale will be split in the following way:

  • 10 per cent to be contributed to the pension fund for the archdiocese’s priests.
  • 40 per cent to be shared equally between the two parishes.
  • 50 per cent to be used for the establishment of an endowment fund in support of pastoral work serving the Catholic francophone population of the archdiocese, with priority given to people living in Vanier.

Important to francophone community

The church was built in 1908 and its founding pastor was Monsignor François-Xavier Barrette.

The church was formerly home to the Order of Jacques Cartier, a French-speaking ‘secret-society’ formed in response to the freemasons.

“Today it stands within what’s almost a downtown core but in those days that area had just been developed after they had constructed the St. Patrick Bridge,” said Mike Steinhauer, who was part of a successful campaign to have the church designated as a heritage property in 2013.

“It became a bastion of sorts, a settlement for the francophone community in Ottawa.”

After years of declining attendance the church has been vacant since 2010, but it cost the archdiocese about $25,000 per year to maintain the building.

Dozens of people, including former parishioners, have spoken out at community meetings in recent years about their desire to preserve the church and the grounds.

“It has been a landmark on Beechwood (Avenue) for the past 100 years, that intersection is an intersection of four communities and there’s a town square,” Steinhauer said.

That heritage designation means the church’s main three facades and tower will have to be preserved and remain where they are now.

Public space maintained

The property is being developed as the second project by Modbox, a recently-formed company combining architecture firm Linebox with building and project management company Lake Partnership Inc.

Linebox founder Andrew Reeves said the former church and its grounds will remain open to the public once the approximately $40 million redevelopment is finished.

“The plans are to respect and engage this amazing church,” he said.

“We look at it as an opportunity to play with an existing structure… as well as the established past it has.”

Reeves said they have plans for about 30 to 35 condo units and an outdoor and indoor market on the property, along with shops, restaurants and gardens.

Some of the investors, including Tobias Lutke and Harley Finkelstein, are also executives with Ottawa-based online shopping company Shopify.

There is currently no target date for completion, but developers say they want to start working within a year.