If only going to church was always this much fun, then maybe the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa wouldn't have had to sell St. Charles church.
The place was hopping Thursday at the official sales launch of a new mixed-use residential and commercial project that's breathing new life and vitality into the old Vanier church, just off Beechwood Avenue. It can count Lindenlea, New Edinburgh and Rockcliffe Park among its neighbours.
ModBox is building St. Charles Market with award-winning Ottawa architect firm Linebox Studio, whose projects have included Shopify’s Elgin Street headquarters.
The new condos and townhomes will wrap around the church to create European-style marketplace with cafés and restaurants, as well as outside public spaces and gardens.
The project got a ringing endorsement from Mayor Jim Watson. "I predict this is going to be one of the most exciting redevelopment projects in the entire city of Ottawa," he told the crowd in his remarks.
Attendees included investor and Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke. He got a lift to the event with the mayor, since they were both heading to the same spot following their Invest Ottawa board of directors meeting.
Lütke, along with Cody Fauser (the former chief technology officer of Shopify), were seen chatting with Andrew Reeves, principal architect at Linebox.
His team is not only preserving the 1908-built, Québec Neoclassical church, a designated heritage building; it's creating a re-energized space that brings the community together, as churches used to do. The building was sold due to years of declining attendance and the high costs of maintaining the building.
“We’re very proud of what we’ve come up with as a solution," Reeves told OBJ.social. "I think it will be a good example of how you can re-purpose and reuse existing buildings that are architecturally interesting but, more importantly, socially interesting.
“We’re hoping that people will gravitate toward it and buy into what we’re trying to make. We’ve surrounded ourselves with the best people, from builders to developers to investors. It’s a truly ‘boutique-y’, touchy-feely local experience that we took very seriously.
“We want to make sure it’s something that will continue to be an example of good development and good architecture in a community that desperately needs it.”
Out supporting the new project were such Ottawa developers as Shawn Malhotra, a vice president with Claridge Homes, with his wife, Louise, and sisters Angela Singhal and Monica Singhal, with her husband, Kevin Yemm, from Richcraft Homes.
Guests also included Bob McElligott, president and CEO of Brickland Timberlay Corporation (he and his wife are currently developing a four-season, 450-acre gated cottage community, Clos de SIXTE, between Ottawa and Tremblant).
“You know, I made a bid to buy this,” he told OBJ.social. “I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t get it … but I think that they haven’t dropped the ball at all.
“They’ve been very, very cooperative with the local communities, on both sides of Beechwood, and have worked very closely with community groups and have worked very closely with the [city’s] planning department. They’ve come up with a scheme that I think is going to work and I think is going to revitalize Beechwood.
"I think it’s fabulous. I really do.”
The launch party was catered by Chef Matthew Carmichael and saw the walls adorned with artwork by local artists. There remained a churchy feel to the place with its round arched windows and the odd pew for sitting on.