© Jennifer Hoegg - Kingscountynews.ca
By Wendy Elliott
A group of volunteers in Kentville is hoping to build a new asset for the community out of the closure of St. Stephen and St. Paul’s United Church.
The structure could become a new home for the town’s library and a new conference centre, which would be called the Kentville Knowledge Centre.
Commercial real estate broker Bill Denyar is devoting time to the process of creating a Community Economic Development Investment Fund (CEDIF) to finance the acquisition of the church building.
“Duke Investments Ltd. was created as a community development corporation for that purpose,” he said. “Duke has an irrevocable option to purchase the building.”
According to Denyar, the CEDIF will seek the participation of individuals from the community at large in a proposal to renovate the sanctuary as a library and repurpose the church hall annex as a conference centre.
Denyar, a United Church member, said he’d known for several years that the church was heading for closure.
“The idea’s been floated around for two or three years,” he said.
As a Rotarian, Denyar found a community group interesting in repurposing the building.
The for-profit CEDIF model has been utilized successfully by both Just Us Coffee and The Port Pub as mechanisms to acquire property and start new ventures.
Currently, Kentville accountant Frances Schagen has a contract to file the CEDIF documents. Denyar says he’s building the required board of six individuals.
“Several people have consented,” he said. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm about the project. Kentville doesn’t have a small conference centre.”
Denyar says the success of the project will depend on community support and direct participation.
“In that sense it is definitely a community project,” he noted. Fundraising will be required to buy the building and retrofit the sanctuary into a tri-level library.
Kentville seeking new library
A new library is on Kentville’s radar. The town’s council advisory committee voted Sept. 9 to recommend council start asking for proposals.
Town staff will begin preparing a request for proposals for repurposing an existing building to house a new library. The decision is conditional on Kings County agreeing to share responsibility for capital and operating costs.
In a report to the committee from chief administrative officer Mark Phillips, the total number of Kentville library users is 5,918: 49 per cent Kentville residents, 46 per cent county residents and 5.3 per cent residents of other towns. The current library cost the town $30,000 in 2012.
According to the document, the current library, at 2,175 square feet, does not meet the minimum standards for a municipal population of 1,500 to 5,000 people.