United they build: Church invites public to open house
The boxes are still being unpacked, but Kamloops United Church is throwing open the doors to its revamped church building for a community housewarming on Thursday, Jan. 24.
Last year, the church embarked on the first phase of a major redevelopment of its property at 421 St. Paul Street, which saw the church scale back its meeting and worship space to make room for an affordable-housing project.
Since construction began, the congregation has met in a hall in another building on the property. It moves back into the new sanctuary for services starting on Feb. 3.
“It’s like coming home after you’ve been away on a long vacation,” said Ron Routledge, chairman of the church’s redevelopment committee.
“I think the overall feeling is one of, ‘Hey, we’re coming back home again and this is kind of neat’.”
The housewarming will give the public a chance to see the new hall, programming space and kitchen.
Routledge said the kitchen will be a special focus of the open house.
The church received $80,000 for its upgrade from the Aviva Community Fund after winning an online competition last year.
The old kitchen produced its final hot meal for the church’s People In Transition (Pit Stop) program this past weekend — a task Routledge said had become increasingly challenging.
“The stove, for example, it would heat, but you couldn’t really adjust temperatures, so you had to cook, if you were putting something in the oven, based very much on time,” he said.
“If this thing is boiling hot, let’s see, you used to cook that for 20 minutes at 350, you stick it in for about four-and-a-half minutes and let her go.”
While phase two of the project is moving ahead, Routledge said the congregation still has plenty of work to do as it moves into its new space.
“You’re not going to walk in and marvel at how we’ve got the seating arranged in the sanctuary,” Routledge cautioned.
“What we’re celebrating is the opening of the building so we can start putting things into it.”
If members of the community feel like pitching in with that process, Routledge said the congregation would be happy for the help.
“We’ll probably be looking for people to build some shelves or donate some of their time,” he said.
The open house runs from 1:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24.
With BC Housing’s blessing secured, Kamloops United Church is moving ahead with its affordable-housing project.
BC Housing has given the church preliminary approval for a 56-unit development, which will also house the church’s thrift store and offices.
Routledge said final drawings of the units should come to market in early March.
One of the conditions of BC Housing’s approval — and funding — for the project is that the church pre-sell a certain number of units in the building.
Routledge said 70 per cent of the units, which range from bachelor suites to three-bedroom designs, will be “affordable purchase.”
A price for the units hasn’t been set yet, but BC Housing requires they be sold at 10 per cent below their appraised value.