We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.
Urban Planning + Architecture

A Vancouver Church Is Demolished, But Resurrection Is Nigh

Congregations and condos come together as religious groups redevelop their properties to make new use of land. With photo gallery.

By Christopher Cheung 2 Mar 2018 | TheTyee.ca

Christopher Cheung reports on urban issues for The Tyee. Find his previous stories here and follow him on Twitter at @bychrischeung.

“Even when you’ve got all the memories, it’s still a sad thing,” Valerie Weinert told me two years ago.

Weinert, born in 1948, grew up attending the church with her parents, went to Sunday school in the gym and was married in the sanctuary. It was packed with people back then. If her family was late for Christmas and Easter services, they had to sit in the basement and listen to the service from a pipe.

But the congregation declined in the years since, and most of its members are over 50.

For religious and community groups losing members, those that own property often do one of two things: sell or redevelop. Those who redevelop usually take the opportunity to serve the community in a new way: creating housing, including condos, rentals and social housing.

Oakridge United Church will be turning into The Parker, which its partner developer calls “a boutique collection of 47 luxury Westside residences in Vancouver’s prestigious Oakridge neighbourhood.”

Oakridge United will have a space in the new development that still resembles a church, something city planners were “very particular” about.

The demolition of the 1949 building, which Heritage Vancouver listed as endangered three years ago, began March 1. It was built in the Gothic Revival style, with arched doors, windows with coloured glass panels and a large bell tower with an elaborate spire, modelled on the grand St. Giles’s Cathedral in Edinburgh.

851px version of Oakridge-Front.jpg
1200px version of Oakridge-Arch.jpg
851px version of Oakridge-Graf.jpg
851px version of Oakridge-Organ2.jpg
851px version of Oakridge-Cut.jpg
851px version of Oakridge-WIndows.jpg
1200px version of Oakridge-Onlooker.jpg
851px version of Oakridge-Bobcat.jpg

This change is against the backdrop of one of Vancouver’s most dramatic built transformations, the Cambie Corridor plan, which has welcomed density to the busy arterial. Lots of detached homes have been assembled and redeveloped into mid-rise condo apartments, not without controversy.

851px version of Oakridge-Rentals.jpg
Detached houses in front of a mid-rise rental building on 41st Avenue.

Plans for the redevelopment of Oakridge Mall on Cambie Street were recently unveiled by developer Westbank; the architect insists it’s “not a mall” but a piece of “new urbanism that integrates a park, housing, retail, residences, cultural facilities and civic amenities.”

It’s a shiny, sprawling 28-acre development, but will there be any affordable homes in the area? The City of Vancouver is working on the third phase of the Cambie Corridor Plan; the draft mandates rentals and social housing in new developments in some areas.

It’s a striking reinvention of the Oakridge neighbourhood, and churches have a part to play. Robert Brown, the founder of Catalyst Community Developments which has worked with churches, told the Tyee last August that keeping them in the neighbourhood prevents a void forming from their absence.

“It’s very important that the assets owned in what we call community hands remain in community hands,” said Brown. “We think, more often than not, there’s a way groups can hang on to most of the ownership of their property and still achieve what they need to achieve.”

Heritage Vancouver puts it like this: “When [church] buildings close, Vancouver communities lose more than Sunday worship space; they lose space for the countless social and cultural activities that churches accommodate seven days a week.”  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Get The Tyee in your inbox

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other


The Barometer

How are you making it through social distancing?

Take this week's poll