Owners of Moose Jaw’s oldest building can alter the structure’s exterior but will not receive funding through the Downtown Façade Improvement Grant program, as the building is outside the program's boundary.
The Chinese United Church, located at 303 High Street West, is the oldest recorded building in the community. It was constructed in 1883 and moved in 1884; it was moved three more times before the Free Methodists purchased the building and moved it to its present location.
The former church was designated a municipal heritage building in 1984. The church’s architecture features a Gothic vernacular influence, evident through features such as the lancet windows, steeply pitched gable roof, tower, and spire.
Businessman Gary Power owns the building, which currently houses several commercial businesses, including Fit 4 Life.
During its most recent regular meeting, city council voted 6-1 to allow the building’s owners to make improvements to the building. These enhancements include new window shutters, flower boxes, front door and concrete parging.
Council also voted 6-1 to refer the grant program to the next executive committee meeting, where city administration is expected to bring back a report about changing the bylaw for funding of historic buildings, particularly if they are outside the downtown area.
Coun. Brian Swanson was opposed to both motions.
Since this building is outside the boundary area, an amendment could be made to the grant policy that would include all municipal heritage buildings, regardless of where they are, explained Michelle Sanson, director of planning and development services. If the changes are approved, Mr. Power could then re-apply for the program.
“The irony here is we have the oldest building in the city, but it is unable to (access the program) because it is outside the boundary,” observed Coun. Crystal Froese.
Council ratified the downtown façade improvement grant last December as a pilot project, according to a city administration report. The grant has a maximum contribution amount of $20,000, with an individual application limit of $5,000. If the application is approved, the owner or owners would receive a matching grant for the list of eligible improvements.
If approved, the applicant would be asked to enter into a reimbursement agreement with the municipality, to establish specific requirements for the proposed improvements. The grant would be awarded upon completion of the work and confirmation that the requirements have been met.
“One of the primary goals of the grant is to improve the heritage features of Moose Jaw and to incentivize projects that enhance heritage value,” said the report. “Being the oldest building in the community, the Chinese United Church is considered a heritage asset. Administration believes that the building’s designation and proximity to the downtown should justify consideration.”
The estimated cost of all the external façade elements on the building is $8,315; the grant program would provide half of that, or $4,157.50.
The next regular council meeting is Monday, May 27.