Today, council turned down a proposal to purchase the McDougall United Church. This was deemed a fair decision as it would have set a precedent for many other old churches currently in disrepair. In the interim, City Council has requested Administration to look at all alternative options to save the church.
Despite proclaiming the building’s historical significance, the church authority refuses to peruse a Municipal Heritage Designation, a fate that would secure its legal protection from demolition. Church treasurer Greg Greenough asserts that Municipal Heritage Designation would decrease the resale value as it would limit future owners from dismantling the building for redevelopment. This is simply untrue. Heritage properties typically perform well in comparison to other property markets. Further, their values tend to be resistant to market downturns. This is quite evident in Edmonton and can be seen around many thriving urban neighbourhoods such as Oliver, Old Strathcona and 104 Street. If the church is truly interested in saving this cultural asset, it should invest in designation.
To read more on the history of McDougall United Church, read this excellent article by Lawrence Herzog here.
I agree with the sentiment that Heritage Designation does not always represent a loss of value or a down-zoning. It does create challenges around retention and integration, but in many cases in the vicinity of the church heritage designations have contributed to the intrinsic value of the building, to wit: McLeod Building, converted to condos, beneficiary of restoration and housing grants, the Hotel MacDonald would not be the crown jewel it is today were it not for a Heritage Designation and City partnered rehabilitation of the interior fresco and roofing. The church congregation (of which I am a past member) and council need to re-think their approach.