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Anglican Cathedral plans modern annex, city defers approval

An architectural rendering of the proposed annex to be built next to the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist has a modern design that doesn’t meet the city’s development regulations, and therefore requires council approval.
An architectural rendering of the proposed annex to be built next to the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist has a modern design that doesn’t meet the city’s development regulations, and therefore requires council approval. - Contributed

Addition to designated heritage building will be used for a new parish hall, office space, resource centre and café

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Contrasting heritage with modernity was part of the design for a planned addition to the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. 

A St. John’s designated heritage building, the stone cathedral built in the 1800s was designed by British architect George Gilbert Scott. It’s an internationally known example of Gothic Revival style. 

An architectural rendering shows a proposed annex to be built next to the cathedral, beginning this August. In comparison, it is a sleek, mirror-laden structure designed to house offices, a resource centre, café and, most importantly, a new parish hall. 

The old parish hall, where the church previously held functions, was located farther up Church Hill. The aging hall required that parishioners climb steep stairs to attend events.

“It’s hard for a lot of our aging population to do that, you know — there’s no elevator in it at all,” said Archdeacon Roger Whalen. 

It also needed renovations that would be costly to complete. 

“It was much easier for us to move ahead with a new building and sell the old property,” said Whalen. 

The parish hall is conditionally sold, and developers plan to convert it into a 40-unit residential building. 

However, its replacement – the proposed annex – is yet to be approved by city council. Due to the modern glass design, the annex does not meet the city’s heritage standards. New buildings that don’t meet those standards laid out in the development regulations require council’s approval. 

At the regular Monday meeting, Mayor Danny Breen deferred the decision. 

“I have some concerns about it, some concerns about the view of it from Duckworth Street,” said Breen. “The ecclesiastical district is a huge piece of our heritage and culture.” 

Some of the recommendations by the city’s Built Heritage Experts Panel had already been implemented by the developer, such as changes to the exterior of the annex to make it blend better with the cathedral. 

However, Breen said he first saw the architectural renderings last week and he hasn’t had time to ask questions of the proponents. He said his concerns are with the size and relativity of the annex to the cathedral.

“If you look at the view from Duckworth Street up to the Anglican Cathedral, it’s a pretty historic view in our city, and this development, I’m not sure, because sometimes when you look at renderings you don’t know if you’re getting the right scale, and you’re getting the right size, so I just want to make sure that we’re having a very good look at this.”

"I just want to make sure that we’re having a very good look at this.” — Mayor Danny Breen

Meanwhile, Whalen said most parishioners are excited about the opportunity the annex will provide the church in terms of community outreach and an accessible space. 

“Some people don’t like the look very much because it’s very modern. It’s a glass structure, but that was a conscious decision because we couldn’t compete with the cathedral at all – you know, it’s such a gorgeous building, and it’s been, I guess, a popular movement to put these modern structures next to the older structures for contrast, but also to try not to take away from the building.”

He said the annex is expected to be completed by autumn 2020, pending council approval. 

Twitter: @juanitamercer_


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