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Elmira church prepares for redevelopment project

Everything must go! From the children’s play sets to the wooden ceiling panels, Trinity United Church in Elmira put everything up for auction over the last week, preparing to vacate the building that will make way for a new development.

All the proceeds from the online auction, which wrapped up Wednesday, are earmarked to help fund the church after the property has been redeveloped.

The organization has plans to redevelop the Arthur Street property to provide some 40 apartments, as well as community amenities and space for church services.

“We’re just almost at the point of doing all the finalization of all the agreements, and then the building will eventually be torn down. The developer is going to be building a new building,  a four-storey apartment complex, and the church will be on the main floor. So, the church will be the first floor and then three floors above it will be approximately 40 apartment units,” said Randy Warren, chair of the finance and property committee for Trinity United Church.

Having been closed through much of the pandemic, the church resumed services last Sunday, though not at the Arthur Street building.

“September 5 is our first in-person service, however we will not be doing it in our location because of the redevelopment. We are moving to a temporary location to Floradale Mennonite Church. We’re going to be located there until our building is torn down and redeveloped, and then we’ll move back.”

The church at 21 Arthur St. N. was formed in 1971 when Wesley United and Zion United merged into one congregation. This history of the former Wesley Church dates back to 1836 when a man named Samuel Fear rode through the bush from Guelph to conduct services. Back then, church services were held in log homes until 1848 when the first school was built, also out of logs. Services were held in that building until 1854, when a red brick church was built down the road. The location of the church resulted in the roadway being named Church Street.

“The building just become way too big for the size of our congregation, and with it being a normal church building our reuse is pretty restricted because the majority of the building is the sanctuary, which is all pews,” said Warren of the impetus of the plan for the current church building. “As a church congregation, we’ve been talking about what could we do different and taking into account the sustainability of the building and everything so we came to the idea of ‘let’s redevelop the property,’ and we came up with the idea of working with a developer to do an apartment complex because we know there is a big need for apartments within our community.

“At the same time we thought we could build a new church space that would be much more multifunctional and help us with reaching out to the community more and making more available to the community through the week, whether it be for meetings or different types of activities, or non-profit organizations potentially using the space through the week when we’re not there.”

Knowing they’ll be in a smaller space after the redevelopment, church members are already working on the transition.

“We’ve gone through the church from top to bottom, and have gone through everything to identify stuff we want to keep. And then there’s all the other stuff that we looked at and said ‘you know what?, we really don’t have a need for this going forward.’ We ended up thinking about an auction, and with COVID and everything you can’t really have live auctions, so it’s an online auction. There are almost 600 items listed,” said Warren.

“All the money that’s raised from the auction is going to be put in a separate fund, and that’s going to be our new building fund so when we get our new building we’ll be using that money to purchase whatever we need.”

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