Bystanders, business owners and students on their lunch break at Sir James Douglas Elementary watch as a backhoe rips the ceiling beams down from the Fairfield United Church Thursday afternoon.
The 93-year-old church at 1303 Fairfield Road is being demolished to make way for Unity Commons, a 15-unit, four-storey, multi-purpose development with ground floor commercial space and room for the United Church congregation.
“I’m excited about seeing the change, to see it re-built and re-purposed,” said Nancy Buchanan, owner of Looking Glass, a salon located on Moss Street, adjacent to the church.
|Residents and business owners in Fairfield have mixed views on the demolishment of Fairfield United Church. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)|
“It’s a new space. It’s a new church hall – the choirs can come back in, the Brownies, the AA meetings, all those things that happen around here in the evenings,” she said. “It will all be available again. I’m sick of looking at an empty building and I’m also excited to see change.”
The road to removing the long-standing church wasn’t a smooth one – a number of Fairfield locals rallied to save it from demolition – but a lengthy assessment put minimum seismic and safety upgrades at $2.5 million.
“We had a tough choice to make: to either save the building or save the church and its congregation,” developer Nicole Roberts told Black Press Media in March. “This project has chosen the church and its people. It’s chosen to be a placemaker, to create rental housing supply and to ensure that the Fairfield United Church would continue to worship and work in this neighbourhood as it has for over 90 years.”
Gary Pearson works in Fairfield and has lived in Victoria for 56 years. He says he’s sad to watch local infrastructure change.
“Basically, what gave our city character and what attracted people to our city in the first place is slowly being destroyed. I don’t belong here anymore,” he said. “Instead of renovating buildings to live in, like a lot of the rest of the world, we knock buildings down and build new ones.”
Demolition of the church is expected to take up to two weeks.
With files from Nicole Crescenzi.
Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.