The vacant St. John’s Church is to become a creative center, plus affordable living space

The church will become a place for art to be created and exhibited, while affordable housing is being rebuilt on the property.  (Roger Cosman/CBC and submitted by Seth Asimakos - photo credit)

The church will become a place for art to be created and exhibited, while affordable housing is being rebuilt on the property. (Roger Cosman/CBC and submitted by Seth Asimakos – photo credit)

A 139-year-old vacant St. John’s Church will once again be a community center as Brickyard Creative – a space for artists, nonprofits and social entrepreneurs with 38 affordable housing units being built on the site.

The Brickyard Creative is a Kaleidoscope Social Impact project that the church purchased to renovate and build on its lot on the corner of Broad and Carmarthen Streets in the south of the city.

“I think people are going to be quite amazed,” said Seth Asimakos, co-founder and CEO of Kaleidoscope Social Impact, of the eventual finished product.

Originally built in 1884, St. John the Baptist Church has stood vacant since 2018, when the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saint John closed nine churches across the province.

    State archive of the NL P210\2543

State archive of the NL P210\2543

In 2021 it was bought by a couple who wanted to convert it into a climbing gym, but that plan fell through.

The church itself will be a space filled with offices, studios and meeting rooms, while the vacant lot will house an affordable residential complex, initially called Barrack Green Residences.

The residences will be primarily for women and their children, Asimakos said.

“Women come and go from addiction,” he said. “And these are women who are actually getting their children back and bringing stability back into their lives.”

Units fill a need on the housing continuum

The development’s affordable housing unit will be built on a vacant lot surrounding the church off Broadview Avenue.

Asimakos said it fits in with other work Kaleidoscope is doing to fill gaps in the housing continuum in Saint John — that is, the range of housing available in a community, from emergency shelters to owner-occupied homes.

Roger Cosman/CBC

Roger Cosman/CBC

A project for people who are actively homeless is underway on Waterloo Street. He said there will be basic accommodation but will bring people out of the cold and into a supportive space.

“This is the next phase … So the transition from addiction to having their families back with them, their kids back with them.”

Asimakos said there is a significant need for this type of housing in the community.

CLOCK | Step into the burned out church:

The development will have a mix of units including bachelor, one bedroom, two bedroom and three bedroom units.

“So it can accommodate families of different sizes, which is very important to us,” Asimakos said.

Asimakos said the project is seeking funding from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Rapid Housing Initiative and the provincial government.

Google Maps

Google Maps

If all goes well with the applications and permits, Asimakos estimates they could start groundbreaking for the new building in August.

A space for artists and innovators

The church was largely gutted in preparation for the climbing hall, but is now to be completely renovated.

The nave, or main room, where the parishioners once sat becomes three floors of office and studio space. While the space housing the pulpit and stage remains open with 15 meter high ceilings to be used for art exhibitions and meeting spaces.

“Which we seem to have covered [in Saint John] are, you know, gallery spaces, but what’s been missing are places for artists to work,” Asimakos said.

Submitted by Seth Asimakos

Submitted by Seth Asimakos

The basement will house Brilliant Labs, a Saint John-based charity that provides opportunities for youth to develop technological skills throughout Atlantic Canada.

“We consider this to be one of the most innovative projects, you know, not just in the Saint John area, but in all of New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada for Brilliant Labs,” said Jeff Willson, Executive Director of Brilliant Labs. “So we’re very excited.”

The charity will not be running any programs on Brickyard until the end of this year. Willson said the hope is to move into a temporary space on the property in the spring while her permanent home in the basement is ready.

Submitted by Seth Asimakos

Submitted by Seth Asimakos

Willson said the space will allow them to have tools not allowed at Brilliant Labs’ current location, such as laser cutters, machining tools and hot presses.

“We are very excited to have access to new devices and cutting-edge technology, to bring them here in Saint John, and to enable youngsters to learn how to use them.”


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