ST. PETER’S LUTHERAN CHURCH PROPERTY REDEVELOPMENT WILL INCLUDE AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Kitchener, ON. April 8, 2021. St. Peter’s Lutheran Church congregation recently voted to alter their land holding in support of redeveloping their property at 49 Queen St. N, Kitchener. The redeveloped downtown Kitchener site will include up to 40 single, affordable housing apartments on the second and third floors of their existing building. The church’s distinctive sanctuary with stained-glass windows and soaring ceiling will undergo renovations but remain in its historic location. This project will continue St. Peter’s legacy as a centre of spiritual and community well-being in the Waterloo Region.
“I commend St. Peter’s congregation for embarking on this courageous and faith-fueled partnership to bless and serve our neighbours! This is a timely and much needed expression of contemporary discipleship that will extend blessing upon blessing within our community,” says Bishop Michael Pryse of the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
The need for affordable housing became real for the downtown congregation when they discovered a family of three living in an air vent behind their building. “Three people experiencing homelessness were living directly behind our altar as we worshipped in comfort,” says Pastor Mark Ehlebracht.
Founded in 1863 to meet the spiritual needs of German Lutherans who migrated to Kitchener from Europe, St. Peter’s has a long history of collaboration with the community. After dialogue with a variety of community partners, the congregation decided to collaborate with Indwell on this supportive housing project.
Indwell is a Christian charity that creates affordable housing communities for people seeking health, wellness and belonging. They serve people experiencing poverty due to a disability, often impacted by mental health, and sometimes complicated by addictions. Founded in 1974, Indwell has been constructing new affordable housing since 2006. They have buildings across Southwestern Ontario in London, Hamilton, Woodstock, Simcoe, and new projects in Kitchener and Mississauga. Indwell is currently repurposing the former St. Mark’s Lutheran church property beside Grand River Hospital to create 43 apartments.
“People speak very highly of Indwell as a provider of supportive housing. We hear that they engage meaningfully with their partners, the community, and the municipality as they plan their projects,” says Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, who is excited about the St. Peter’s project in the heart of Kitchener.
Work towards this new vision for St. Peter’s ministry will begin this spring, with design, costings, and community engagement. Once an implementation strategy is in place, construction could begin in 2022. Indwell will implement passive house standards to curtail greenhouse gas emissions and reduce utility costs—savings that are passed on to tenants. St. Peter’s and Indwell would operate their programs independently, but envision shared spaces including a community kitchen, programming and social facilities, and an enhanced outdoor courtyard at the heart of the project.
Indwell will manage the affordable housing units and provide mental health and practical supports to the tenants. “Loving our neighbours as ourselves is fundamentally at the heart of our faith, and of our organization’s culture,” says Jeff Neven, Executive Director at Indwell. “We are inspired by St. Peter’s overwhelming decision to reach out in love to their neighbours, to practically invest in sharing life with people right next door who may have been homeless. We’re excited to be taking these next steps towards realizing this vision together.”
“Almost 6,000 people are on the list for affordable housing in the region…Government can’t provide for this need on our own. We need to create significant partnerships with the private sector and non-profit organizations like Indwell and St. Peter’s Church to solve this problem,” says Regional Councillor Jim Erb.
“St. Peter’s has been blessed to be part of downtown Kitchener for more than 158 years. This redevelopment project is rooted in our commitment to continue giving back to the amazing Waterloo Region community,” says St. Peter’s Pastor Mark Ehlebracht. The project reinforces the church’s motto “there is a place for you here” as they continue widening their welcome to the community.
Graham Cubitt, Director of Projects & Development at firstname.lastname@example.org or (c) 905-546-7348.
Pastor Mark Ehlebracht or Susan Dietrich (Board Chair) from St. Peter’s Church, please contact, email@example.com or 519-745-4705.
Photo: Matthew McCarthy
KITCHENER — Amid shiny new condo towers in the city core, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church on Queen Street North is moving ahead with plans to provide affordable apartments.
The congregation recently voted to partner with a Hamilton-based developer to build 40 one-bedroom units with a maximum rent of $550 on the second and third floors of the church building at 49 Queen St. N.
Indwell is a Christian-based charity that’s built 700-plus units of affordable and supportive apartments in Hamilton and London for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in those cities.
The charity’s partnership with St. Peter’s is the second during the past year in Kitchener. In March 2020, it purchased St. Mark’s Lutheran Church at 825 King St. W. for an affordable housing project.
News of the partnership with St. Peter’s comes as a record-breaking building boom continues in downtown Kitchener that is adding hundreds of new condo units, but so far only 11 affordable units.
There are more than 6,000 families on the region’s waiting list for subsidized housing, and during the pandemic the region has placed 70 homeless people in suburban motels — first in Kitchener, then Waterloo and now Guelph.
St. Peter’s Pastor Mark Ehlebracht said the congregation wants to help the poor and homeless people of Kitchener in a real way. They spent the past three years looking for the right development partner.
“This decision was about making a tangible difference,” said Ehlebracht.
When a homeless family sheltered in the airduct behind the church, the pastor and his congregation were moved to act. The homeless people painted this on the wall: “Mr + Mrs Nobody + offspring, Unit #1, Anyplace St. Somewhere, The World.”
“It is so close to being behind the altar,” said Ehlebracht. “On one side of the altar here we are worshipping in our finery, and singing our praises, and someone quite literally on the other side of that altar was living in an airduct. That’s what breaks my heart.”
St. Peter’s Church was established on Queen Street North 158 years ago, and the congregation voted 99 per cent in favour of partnering with Indwell to build affordable apartments in the building, said Susan Dietrich, the chair of the church’s board.
“The congregation is excited, and we can’t wait to see what happens,” said Dietrich.
The main sanctuary, chapel and courtyard will remain. The apartments will be added on the upper two floors. St. Peter’s and Indwell will need to raise funds and secure grants from government housing programs. Based on previous experience, Indwell believes the St. Peter’s project could be finished within three years, said Graham Cubitt, the charity’s director of projects and development.
“The concept that we have worked on is using the building that St. Peter’s has there,” said Cubitt. “Adaptive reuse, they have a very beautiful building, a solid building, one that bodes well for conversion.”
The current church building was constructed in 1968.
“Almost 6,000 people are on the list for affordable housing in the region,” said Regional Coun. Jim Erb in a statement. “Government can’t provide for this need on our own. We need to create significant partnerships with the private sector and non-profit organizations like Indwell and St. Peter’s Church to solve this problem.”
It is our privilege to be partnering with Indwell for this redevelopment journey.
Indwell is a Christian affordable housing provider in southern and southwestern Ontario. Currently serving over 700 tenants in the province across four locales, Indwell is in the pre-development or construction stage with four more municipalities including Waterloo Region. Indwell’s mission is to create affordable housing communities that support people seeking health, wellness and belonging.
Indwell is excited to partner with St. Peters Lutheran Church in Kitchener to develop 40 units of supportive, affordable housing on the site of the current church campus.
Feel free to reach out to St. Peter’s or Indwell.
You can reach Mark Willcock, Community Engagement Coordinator – Waterloo Region at (226) 242-2213 x 390 or firstname.lastname@example.org
You can check out some of their incredible work by clicking here.
A Redevelopment Prayer
Crafted by Ruth Burgess (adapted); see Eggs and ashes by Ruth Burgess & Chris Polhill
God, our God,
You have called us to be a people on the move,
Dying to live,
Ready to lose ourselves for the sake of the world.
You have called us to be a people with a purpose;
A reforming people,
Travelling to where we are led,
Sustained by your Spirit,
Committed to the Gospel for the hope of the world.
You have called us, your people,
To be the church in the heart of Kitchener.
Move us on our redevelopment journey
From where we are to where you want us to go.
Open our eyes on the way
To see the unseen and to loose the chains of injustice.
Take us on our redevelopment journey
From where we are to what you want us to be;
So that we become a community
Where all are welcomed and no one is excluded,
All are valued and no one is made to feel inadequate,
All are forgiven and no one is ashamed to belong,
All are encouraged, empowered, sustained, and fed, and there is place for everyone.
Lead us on our redevelopment journey
From who we are to who you want us to be;
So that patience is built in to us,
Kindness is assumed in us,
Gentleness is a part of us,
Compassion flows from us,
Truth is second nature to us,
And the commitment of love is part of us.
Today, and beyond,
We give thanks for the work of Indwell and their presence among us.
Let us go, then, gladly, on the journey of redevelopment
Help us to be clear about what we are to become
And let us journey in the peace and power of the Spirit.