Why the Move?

Why the Victoria Unitarians relocated to West Saanich Road 

In the early 1990s the 300-member congregation was located in a historic brick building with a small garden and no on-site parking, at 106 Superior Street near Fisherman’s Wharf. 

There was a sanctuary with seating capacity of 100, a large lounge area, a kitchen, and upstairs a boardroom and office space. The basement had a large open area and a couple of classrooms where children’s religious education classes were held. There was little daylight and some dampness and the building was believed to be seismically unsafe. For adults, there were two services each Sunday which led to complaints that some members went weeks without seeing each other. 

Various solutions were explored. Adjoining property was on the market from time to time which might allow expansion. Structural change such as removal of a bearing wall to combine the lounge and sanctuary was looked at. These options were ruled out because the building was non-conforming and structural changes or expansion to adjoining lots would also require the church to conform with zoning and parking requirements which was likely not feasible. 

A property search committee was established in January 1990 to find an affordable suitable building or development site. The committee was initially chaired by Faye Sturrock who had connections with some developers. The initial plan was a phased approach with Phase 1 the purchase of land (about 1.5 to 2 acres to meet zoning requirements) for about $300,000 and Phase 2, construction of a building ($550,000 – $750,000). Meetings were held with social housing organizations to consider joint proposals but a consultant advised such a project would be very complex because of the need for multi- level government approvals. 

In July 1993 City of Victoria advised that disposal of city property would be priced around $1 million per acre. Options considered over the years included: 

  • Old Baptist church just north of Quadra and Pandora (now condos)
  • 7th Day Adventist at Pandora and Vancouver
  • Former St. Mark’s Anglican on Boleskine
  • A large residential site at Pat Bay Highway and Sayward Rd.
  • A proposal to share space in a new development with Montessori school in Selkirk
  • A condo development with ground floor community space similar to Fairfield New Horizons
  • Christmas Hill

None of these proposals was viable for various reasons.
In September 1993 a 6-acre residential property was found at 355 Atkins Road, Colwood. A conditional full price offer of $480,000 was made and accepted. Future construction costs were estimated to be about $1 million.
In November 1993, 5575 West Saanich Road, with existing usable structures, was identified and a conditional offer of $800,000 was accepted. At a congregational meeting on December 5th 1993 the congregation rejected the offer on 355 Atkins Road and agreed to the offer on 5575 West Saanich Road.  — John Hopewell Nov. 5, 2018