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LETTER: A pitch for compromise on Queen’s Road

A view of Cathedral Parish Hall from Queen’s Road.
A view of Cathedral Parish Hall from Queen’s Road. - Juanita Mercer

On Friday, the Telegram published Juanita Mercer’s thorough and thoughtful look at the debate around the proposed “Parish Lane” development on the site of the old Anglican parish hall on Queen’s Road. 

As one of the people quoted in the article – my family’s home backs onto the site – I think the one area worth expanding on is what an alternative proposal for the site might look like.  

Unusually for a St. John’s development debate, there is significant support for intensification in the form of redevelopment of the parish hall site itself. All the neighbours quoted in the article said as much, and I’ve heard the same from many other people.  

Nobody wants to see a vacant building there. Adding density there will help meet our city’s climate change goals, bring more people into the downtown, and revitalize an important streetscape. 

It’s possible to see an outline of a productive compromise here. The area of the site that carries “Institutional” zoning is actually quite large, and bigger if you add the parking lot.  

A re-arranged site plan could likely see the same number of new units (40) placed there, with the green space preserved for community use. Splitting the rezoning in this way would be much more consistent with the objectives in the city’s municipal plan. Many sections of that plan focus on developing a denser and more mixed-use character for the city, while several sections (3.11, 4.6.9, and 4.6.11, if you’re interested) prioritize the preservation of green spaces, including on private land.  

Of all the things that I’ve heard neighbours and friends wish for in this project, affordable housing has been consistently at the top of the list.  

There are, of course, other sources of opposition to this project. This is a federally designated heritage district, with each individual church building carrying a designation. 

A re-imagined site plan might assuage some concerns of heritage advocates, especially if the developer works to incorporate as much as possible of the remaining heritage structure (which, credit where credit is due, the existing proposal does pay attention to). There is, of course, a totally different route that could be taken.  

The land in question is owned by the Anglican church, which largely hasn’t been engaged in the debate around how to use it. What if the church took a more mission-oriented view of this development, as many other churches have, and looked for opportunity to support the most vulnerable in our city?  

If the church (or a community partner) took this development on, there would be an opportunity here to leverage federal heritage funds to access affordable housing resources and provide for our city’s most vulnerable.  

Of all the things that I’ve heard neighbours and friends wish for in this project, affordable housing has been consistently at the top of the list.  

That said, whether it’s affordable housing or just a better layout for a condo project, the outlines for a compromise here are clear. This still won’t be easy – as the developer noted, they’ve been working on this project for a year, and it’s clear they’re invested in the vision.  

That’s understandable – but had they reached out more broadly around how to reimagine this complex and important piece of our city, this feedback could have come in much earlier. Regardless, I’m sure there’d be openness from the community to move forward together. 

Joshua Smee,  
St. John’s 


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