The historic church in Hunter River, Prince Edward Island is being converted into apartments

HUNTER RIVER, PEI — When the Great Church on Hunter River Hill was put up for sale, a lifelong resident was moved in to save the iconic structure.

Brimming with ideas, entrepreneur Kris Taylor bought the old St. Mary’s Catholic Church in 2019, and he took SaltWire Network to tour the work in progress on May 12.

“I just hate seeing things go to a landfill that could have (been) used. I mean, the wood could last another 200 years in this thing. Transporting all that and putting it in the landfill, I don’t like that at all. »

The steeple of the old St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hunter River still stands tall. -Alison Jenkins

The church was a substantial structure with a good foundation and a view of the whole village, which attracted Taylor to the site.

“A church is up for sale or there’s an old house that needs fixing – if it was one of the first houses in the community, it’s probably the best place for a home,” he said. said.

The project began in 2019 with a renovation permit to make six units in the 10,000 square foot church. But he realized these would be too expensive for most tenants and didn’t sit well with Taylor. He wanted to make sure there was something for all incomes.

“It’s not about rents, it’s about saving this building for the community,” he said.

The project has since grown into a complex of 17 two-bedroom apartment units with a common room, an elevator and six affordable units. Although the exterior has been altered to accommodate the renovation, the church steeple still soars skyward, the first sign of the village to appear to travelers as they cross the hill from Charlottetown. The old belfry that rang to announce services and special occasions from the 1940s to 2008, now houses a clock tower.

Kris Taylor walks through the frame of a two-bedroom apartment in his current project - the creation of 17 apartments from the former St. Mary's Catholic Church in Hunter River.  -Alison Jenkins
Kris Taylor walks through the frame of a two-bedroom apartment in his current project – the creation of 17 apartments from the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hunter River. -Alison Jenkins

old and new

Taylor is not new to the restoration/renovation game. He transformed an old wooden community church into the Harmony House theater and renovated the building that once housed a doctor’s office.

“I grew up here,” he says, pointing to a window opening. “In that house over there, with those two red barns. I just see a lot of opportunities in my community to do things, and that’s really important to me.

Taylor worked in Hunter River for 21 years as a pharmacist, but always enjoyed working with her hands. So when he felt it was time for a change, no one was surprised when he switched to construction.

Kris Taylor looks out of a third-story window of the former St. Mary's Catholic Church in Hunter River toward her family home on the other side of the village.  -Alison Jenkins
Kris Taylor looks out of a third-story window of the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hunter River toward her family home on the other side of the village. -Alison Jenkins

He spent about 18 months gutting the structure himself, salvaging materials, and making the building square and level.

He has collected stained glass, flooring, roughly hewn planks and beams, and plans to incorporate the original materials as much as possible in this new project.

He even removed some of the church’s original rafters, which he used to frame a new roof in another part of the building.

“Right now there’s such a push to get to a point where the next trade can come in…that stuff kind of becomes the extra stuff that takes longer to do. But I think if I don’t , the building won’t shine like it really could and won’t have that heritage feel that it should,” he said.

This is the rear elevation of the former St. Mary's Catholic Church in Hunter River as seen from Route 13 on May 12.  -Alison Jenkins
This is the rear elevation of the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hunter River as seen from Route 13 on May 12. -Alison Jenkins

keep it affordable

The new apartments will be a welcome addition to the community, especially the affordable units, which are supported financially by the Community Housing Fund administered by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Applications go through a six-person committee with two members each from the province, CMHA and community groups, said Jason Doyle, director of housing services at the Department of Social Development and Housing.

“There’s definitely a lot going on right now,” said Doyle, who spoke with SaltWire Network on May 12.

Kris Taylor looks up at the rafters he salvaged from another section of the old St. Mary's Catholic Church in Hunter River which he repurposed in a new section of the apartment complex he is building on the footprint of the church.  -Alison Jenkins
Kris Taylor looks up at the rafters he salvaged from another section of the old St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hunter River which he repurposed in a new section of the apartment complex he is building on the footprint of the church. -Alison Jenkins

Unlike the province’s Affordable Housing Development Program, which rents the units to individuals and families listed on the province’s social housing registry, the Community Housing Fund means the units will remain under the control of the building owner. . Taylor will choose who will live in the six subsidized units.

Currently, the province manages 1,600 affordable housing units, but that is not enough for everyone. There are 370 individuals from families registered in the social housing registry.



Doyle estimated that there are about five projects at various stages of the bid process and between six and 10 currently under construction.

“The need is primarily in the larger municipalities, Charlottetown, Summerside, Montague,” Doyle said.

former St. Mary's Catholic Church in Hunter River, May 12.  -Alison Jenkins
former St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hunter River, May 12. -Alison Jenkins

That said, there is funding for projects in any community.

“We don’t necessarily limit ourselves to just the municipalities that need the most. If there is a project and there is an identified need in a certain location…we will definitely look into it,” Doyle said, adding that the project may be better suited to the Affordable Housing Development Program or the Fund. community housing.

“I would say the interest in the program has definitely increased over the past two years,” Doyle said.

The parking lot and entrance to the new apartment building is on the west facade of the former St. Mary's Catholic Church in Hunter River.  -Alison Jenkins
The parking lot and entrance to the new apartment building is on the west facade of the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hunter River. -Alison Jenkins

Fast facts

The Community Housing Fund is for developers seeking financing so they can offer lower rents to deserving tenants. Preference will be given to near-shovel-ready projects and projects from not-for-profit or community organizations.

Applications are assessed on the following criteria:

  • Need and benefit for the community.
  • Target market/demand.
  • Candidate experience.
  • Expected results/objectives achieved.
  • Project autonomy.

Source: Canadian Mental Health Association


Alison Jenkins is a reporter for the SaltWire Network in Prince Edward Island. @AlisonEBC

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