Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver is looking at selling off part of its property to a developer. Wikipedia

Cathedral ponders development option

By  Agnieszka Ruck, Canadian Catholic News
  • September 29, 2019

VANCOUVER -- Like other churches and schools preparing for a major earthquake some day, 119-year-old Holy Rosary Cathedral is considering its options for a significant upgrade.

Unlike the average church or school, however, the downtown Vancouver landmark needs to clear some Church and state hurdles from the Vatican and the City of Vancouver before starting any serious seismic or structural work — which could include selling some church’s property to a private developer.

Since 1974, the cathedral has been a designated heritage site, listed in the A category of the Vancouver Heritage Register. Before making any formal proposal, cathedral officials approached the city Heritage Commission, which has provided comments and suggestions to guide any proposal.

Approval from the Vatican would also be required before any work begins.

Vancouver’s iconic Catholic cathedral was found to be at high risk to human life and its own structure in case of an earthquake during a seismic study in 2014.

In the five years since, the cathedral’s building committee has been working on a proposal to address that risk and handle a few other issues facing the aging structure.

“The decaying parish hall and the inadequate housing for priests” also need to be addressed, said Fr. Stanley Galvon in a Aug. 29 statement, noting that neither the rectory nor Rosary Hall was deemed to have historic value.

The city’s heritage committee, however,  has described the entire site, including rectory and Rosary Hall, as a “unique element of urban design in the contemporary city reflective of the historic Catholic community of the area’s vanished working class residential district.”

The committee has asked cathedral officials to look for ways to retain the rectory and hall.

Galvon said the seismic upgrade is estimated to cost $24 million, and the other upgrades adding up to additional costs they simply can’t afford.

So, the building committee proposes “to make available to a developer five of the 12 building lots that make up the whole of the Holy Rosary Cathedral site,” including the rectory and hall, said Galvon.

“The title for these five lots would be exchanged with the developer for permanent title of several floors of a new commercial building located on these five lots.”

The developer would help provide funds for the upgrade and supervise the work, while the cathedral would be given perpetual ownership of the lots to ensure it always has a priests’ residence, office space, and parish hall.

Galvon said there are still many questions unanswered as the building committee works its way through approval processes and requirements.

“Holy Rosary Cathedral has served Catholics in our Archdiocese since 1899. We want to continue the way that the Cathedral offers a beautiful sacred space in downtown Vancouver for parishioners and visitors,” he said.

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