Room for God at Apex
Council to vote on measure allowing The Pier church to locate at west-end building
It may not fit exactly with the official plan, but there’s still room in a west-end industrial building for the Almighty.
City councillors will vote Tuesday on a motion to allow The Pier Christian Church to use part of the Apex Building, at 100 Strowger Boulevard, as a place of worship.
Councillors this week made the recommendation despite the advice of city planners.
“I think it is stepping out of the box,” said Mayor David Henderson, who said the staff recommendation to deny the application was city hall being too rigid.
The church, which currently conducts its services at the Brockville Arts Centre, is hoping to move into what will be a renovated section of the west-end building owned by Jag Chawla.
Chawla plans to renovate 53,000 square feet of the building, which has an overall area of 450,000 square feet, and turn that smaller section into a sort of hub for nonprofit agencies.
The Pier plans to rent part of that area for office space.
The concept also includes a gymnasium-like common area which the church would like to use for Sunday worship.
The Pier currently operates out of three different locations: 51 King Street East for offices; 25 Front Avenue for its daily noon feeding and social program; and the arts centre for its Sunday services.
The Pier’s lead pastor, Jonathan Zinck, said the church wants to be part of a “holistic” operation working with other community agencies.
“It’s not about a church just wanting a place to put a church,” he told council on Tuesday.
But Andrew McGinnis, a city planner, said officials “hit a few roadblocks” trying to accommodate the church’s request.
Critical among these is the fact the city is trying to increase its stock of employment lands – property zoned for industrial employers – and this proposal takes up some of that space.
“By permitting this use, you’re taking employment lands away,” said McGinnis.
Henderson had difficulty squaring that perception with the context of this application.
“I’m not clear how that is displacing employment,” said the mayor.
“I think we’re really squeezing the rules on this.”
Councillor Jason Baker, while noting “it’s really hard not to want to cheer for them and support them,” worried the city would set a precedent.
“This building is going from being a manufacturing building to some other form of use,” he said.
Councillors ultimately backed a revised recommendation to add a new site specific policy to permit a “place of worship” at the site, which is not to exceed 930 square metres, (10,000 square feet).
While councillors met in full session, the discussion was treated as a subcommittee matter for procedural reasons, meaning council must put the matter to a final vote next week.
Jonathan Zinck, lead pastor at The Pier Christian Church, speaks to city councillors on Tuesday.