The Salvation Army held a groundbreaking ceremony for its new church in Barrhaven on Sunday, the first step in the construction process its pastor says has taken more than a decade to begin.
Maj. James Mercer, pastor of Salvation Army Barrhaven, said finally putting shovels in the ground was "unbelievable" given all the hurdles the project has faced — including a public dispute with the Ottawa International Airport Authority.
"This is a long time coming, and we're just celebrating," Mercer said.
The plan for the church was approved by city council in March 2017, but the airport authority appealed the decision to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.
That was because the building would fall inside what's known as the Airport Operating Influence Zone, an area that bans "noise-sensitive" development since aircraft fly low overhead.
In November 2019, the tribunal ruled in favour of the church against the objections of the airport and city staff.
"That delayed our project significantly. So that's why it's taken so long," Mercer said. "And then throw in a pandemic — that doesn't help either."
Will be 'a great community hub'
Mayor Jim Watson attended the event and said the new church will provide much needed recreation space for one of the fastest growing areas of the city.
"It's going to be a great community hub, not just for parishioners of this church, but also open green space, community rooms, a gymnasium," Watson said.
The three-phase project includes 18,000 square feet of building space and nearly two hectares of green space, said Mercer.
The first phase includes a large multipurpose worship space, meetings rooms and a commercial kitchen. Phase two will involve building a large gymnasium and auditorium for the community, while phase three will be a worship centre.
"Trying to get gymnasium space in Barrhaven is really tough, particularly because the community is growing so fast," Watson said.
"So for the church to open up space like a gymnasium and community meeting rooms will be a great help to the community."
New building will expand programming
Emily Beckett has been with the Barrhaven church for the past 20 years, and remembered being a child in Sunday school when the vision of a new church first came up.
"They brought all of our kids from the Sunday school together just to talk about what our vision was," she said. "And we got to [share our ideas] of what we'd like for the church."
Beckett said she was excited that construction was finally going ahead, as the church will bring together people from the community. The current building is too small for all the programming they want to do, she said.
"We used to have a hockey program where men could come and play hockey and worship and have snacks. So hopefully we'll be able to start that up again," Beckett said.