P.E.I.'s iconic church in Hunter River is getting a renovation.
St. Mary's of the People Catholic church on Route 2 was closed in 2008, and Island resident Kris Taylor is now renovating the building to create apartments.
"It's a big project," said Taylor, who took possession of the church almost two years ago.
Taylor said there is a real need in the community for housing and this project will help meet the demand.
While he's still in the process of finalizing how many apartment units there will be, Taylor said each will be fairly small.
"People just can't afford larger units anymore," he said.
Taylor said he wants to ensure the outside of the church looks much the same, including the steeple.
"The structure is great. It's best if we can keep it," said Taylor. "The back of the church will probably not have the same look as the front, but just to restore what's in there I believe is important.
"I have a lot of people say to me, 'What are you doing? You should have just taken it down and started from scratch.' But that's just not how my mind works, and I wanted to preserve as much heritage in that building as possible."
While Taylor said "the cost to build right now is tremendous," he still said there are financial benefits to renovating old buildings — in addition to the heritage value.
Taylor also said some of the interior features will remain the same, including most of the stained glass windows. He donated some of those windows featuring Cardinal James McGuigan (a member of the committee that oversaw the building of the church in the 1940s) to a local group with a connection to McGuigan. Taylor will place the rest of the stained glass in the apartment units or common areas.
'Potential in old buildings'
This isn't the first time Taylor has renovated an old P.E.I. building.
"I fixed up the old doctor's office on the corner there and it houses the Subway," Taylor said.
He also renovated the old United Church in Hunter River, which is now the Harmony House theatre and music venue.
They want to know that the church is going to be somewhat preserved. — Kris Taylor
"I don't think a lot of people see potential in old buildings because there is a lot of challenges there with permits and, you know, trying to work with the province and the municipality and the codes," he said.
Taylor said residents of Hunter River have stopped and thanked him for renovating the church.
"They want to know that the church is going to be somewhat preserved."
Taylor said he hopes to have the apartment building completed sometime next year.
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