Ajax heritage church sold to town

  • November 26, 2007

AJAX, Ont. - The Town of Ajax is taking over the 136-year-old St. Frances de Sales Church and the parish has an extra $400,000 to put towards the debt on its new church a few blocks north of the old building.

{sidebar id=1}The town is walking away with a 372-square-metre (4,000-square-foot) building for a purchase price of $50,000, but considering the state of the building and other restrictions, it’s a fair price, said Town of Ajax chief administrative officer Brian Skinner.

“No, we didn’t steal it,” said Skinner. “At the end of the day, while the initial cost is minimal, there is pretty significant cost to upgrade the facility so that it in fact becomes an appropriate public use facility.”

The town designated St. Frances de Sales a heritage site about a decade ago. With changes to the Ontario Heritage Act last year, it became nearly impossible for the archdiocese of Toronto to change the designation or make changes to the building without the town’s consent. This severely restricted the number of potential buyers, said David Finnegan, archdiocese of Toronto planning, properties and housing director.

The archdiocese sold the church parking lot to the Durham Catholic District School Board for $350,000 so that the school next door would continue to have parking. The Town of Ajax has bought only the church building and none of the surrounding land. It is in negotiations with the school board to arrange for parking during non-school hours.

Ajax will likely use the building as a community theatre and arts centre, though the final use of the building hasn’t been set in stone, said Skinner.

“The municipality felt this was an important heritage feature in our community. While we knew that there wasn’t anybody in the offing that was particularly interested in purchasing it, we were fearful that if it was left in its current state that in short order it likely would be in a condition that would see it being demolished,” Skinner said.

Structural, building envelope and other necessary repairs could come to more than $2 million, said Finnegan. Skinner will submit his repair budget to Ajax town council as part of the 2008 city budget process.

Among the first orders of business for the town will be to move the heritage plaque which tells the story of St. Frances de Sales parish from across the street so that it stands directly in front of the building, said Skinner.

“We passed on a heritage building so it would be in the care of the town and properly looked after,” said Finnegan. “We made sure the school had continued access to their property, and they weren’t land-locked. And we ensured that some funds, much needed funds, $400,000, went to construction of the new church.”

The parish retains the old rectory next door to the original church.

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