STELLA MARIS PARISH
SPRYFIELD COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
AN AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT PROJECT
1 - What’s this all about?
2 - Why undertake this project?
This section provides context/background - Archdiocese pastoral priorities, parish vision
3 - How will this be undertaken?
This section provides a list of services provided by AoA, as well as Project Objectives and considerations.
4 - Progress Report Summaries
As the committee meets and approves the project progress a summary of what has been achieved will be added here.
5 - Design Preferences
This section summarizes the input received from many interviews with parishioners, staff and others.
6 - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
7 - Stella Maris Parish Property Development Committee Members
8 - Property Charts/ Maps
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STELLA MARIS PARISH
SPRYFIELD COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
AN AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT PROJECT
What’s this all about?
The Stella Maris Parish vision is to be a beacon of faith, hope and love.
One way to become an outward and visible sign of God's love for the whole world would be by making a meaningful contribution to the housing crisis in Halifax.
To examine this, the Parish has embarked on a project that will explore the feasibility of developing the St. Michael’s property in order to offer affordable, deeply affordable and transitional housing in Spryfield.
This project will be owned by the Roman Catholic Episopal Corporation of Halifax, through Stella Maris Parish, and will comprise two distinct components: a housing component and a parish component. Each would be separate from the other and each financially self-sustaining.
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Why do this?
On January 28, 2021, Archbishop Dunn issued his pastoral priorities, which reflect our diocesan values of Mission, Community, and Formation. They are:
Homelessness (Poverty and Justice)
The Stella Maris Parish has embarked on a new path embracing these priorities. We have begun a process to determine if our Parish identity may be grounded in a specific expression of the Gospel based on addressing the chronic and acute reality of homelessness and the lack of affordable housing.
It is the desire of Stella Maris Parish to provide a meaningful contribution to the housing crisis in Halifax by offering affordable, deeply affordable and transitional housing in Spryfield. That is the primary motivation of this project. This mixture of housing options, along with commercial space, must be financially viable over the life of this development.
The Parish's vision is to be a beacon of faith, hope and love. As an expression of the joy that enlivens the human soul touched by God's merciful love, we desire to so ground our identity in this great gift that we become an outward and visible sign of God's love for the whole world. As a Parish, we believe our expression of this Divine Love is to offer the following:
A parish culture joyfully alive in faith;
A people of hope offering vibrant, engaging, accessible liturgies and programs;
Love for our neighbours: a commitment to social justice and outreach initiatives that meet the pressing need in our community, in conjunction with other like-minded organizations;
A firm, visible, meaningful commitment to affordable, deeply affordable, and transitional housing.
The project is a key component of this new Parish identity as we strive to be transformed from the community we are now to a fuller expression of the community we seek to be. Although amalgamation has transformed Stella Maris Parish, its buildings have yet to reflect the transformation. While parishioners note their connection to the Parish is through people and faith rather than architecture, the Parish buildings strengthen those relationships. The architecture reinforces and reflects the Parish's visibility in the community. The project must welcome the entire congregation, whether as a renovation or new construction elsewhere on the site.
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How will this be undertaken?
To help us understand what is in the realm of the possible, the Stella Maris Parish has contracted Archipelago, Office for Architecture (AOA) to provide the following services:
Assist in the establishment of the Project Objectives;
Determine a property strategy, approvals strategy and phasing strategy;
Determine the design requirements; and,
*Note Project Progress Report Summaries will be added to this website page as they become available.
Project Objectives - what the Parish is looking to achieve
The project must embody the new Parish identity.
The project must address the housing shortage without segregating the development from the broader community.
The housing must be operationally and financially self-sufficient and independent of the Parish (and vice versa).
The project must reimagine the hall as three separate spaces: meeting rooms, a multipurpose room, and a community service hub.
The project must be accessible, inclusive, and informed by those who use it.
The project must be efficient to minimize costs, invest in spatial quality, and deepen affordability.
The Parish would bear the construction and operational costs for renovating or reconstructing the church building, offices, and meeting rooms per diocesan procedures.
The housing component would be financially self-sufficient, including construction, operational, and maintenance costs for the commercial space, community service hub, multipurpose room, and affordable, deeply affordable, and transitional housing.
• The project will reduce construction costs with non-repayable housing grants and seek low interest and forgivable loans where financing is required.
• Housing will sustain financing and operational expenses with revenue from renting the housing units and commercial spaces.
• The project does not intend to generate profit from the housing; however, it will sustain a capital fund for housing repairs and maintenance.
• AOA will assist with fundraising for design services and construction costs associated with housing.
Ultimately, the housing would constitute a significant capital asset for the Parish.
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Progress Report Summaries
Report Number 1
AOA has performed community engagement, a literature review (ongoing), and neighbourhood analysis. This work informed Project Objectives and Design preferences, among other outcomes. Project Objectives describe what the Parish is looking to achieve with the project. Design Preferences summarize desired functionality; AOA will develop them into Design Requirements.
• AOA has spoken with over 40 stakeholders in interviews, town halls, and office hours and continues to engage more people.
• AOA analyzed the architecture, uses, and relationships in the project area, including existing housing types and tenures in Spryfield.
• AOA solicited proposals, issued a budget, and submitted a grant funding request for Pre Design consultant services.
• AOA conducted preliminary reviews of the Municipal Planning Strategy and Halifax Mainland Land Use By-Law.
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Parishioners provided essential insight into design possibilities. AOA has summarized these provisional criteria in the following Design Preferences. They will evaluate the preferences against the Design Capacity. The result will be the Design Requirements.
Parishioners requested each building be easy to find and wanted the church to be the most prominent Parish building. Around each building, they recommended more landscaped spaces (e.g., courtyards) to support outdoor events. Parishioners requested vehicular access to and from William’s Lake Road to access these spaces. The project needs adequate parking, including accessible parking near each building. However, it should also support other modes of transport by including accessible pathways and bike storage.
Currently, the hall has a 300-person capacity. Parishioners noted that they use this capacity only 4-6 times yearly. They said most activities required spaces for 50 people or less, primarily in the evenings. As such, the hall’s space may be better allocated. For example, the Parish could consider having a medium-sized space (e.g., 75-125 person capacity) and several smaller meeting rooms (e.g., 5-15 or 25-35 person capacity).
The spaces need to be accessed independently of the church and other rooms to increase utilization. For instance, if the Parish uses the hall as a daytime warming shelter, as suggested by a Parishioner, it must operate alongside other uses. Moreover, these spaces should be flexible  and technology-enabled (e.g., have basic AV/IT amenities such as a projector, screen, and dimmable lights).
Generally, there were more requests for smaller spaces than larger spaces, but that might be because there is already a larger space available.
Parishioners said there is a need for meeting rooms in the Spryfield community (e.g., rooms at the Captain William Spry Community Centre are often overbooked).
Parishioners suggested moveable partitions as a design possibility. AOA will consider such systems but has found them unsuccessful in other projects because they are often expensive, require frequent repairs, have poor acoustics, and are ultimately under-utilized.
Entry / Foyer or Narthex
Some Parishioners requested a sufficiently large entry or foyer area for people to linger without disrupting the worship space (i.e., a space for a brief conversation without being rushed, but not necessarily a gathering space). Conversely, other parishioners emphasized the importance of the entry in transitioning between the exterior and the worship space, and too much activity in the entry might undermine that experience. Generally, they agreed the entry should lead into the worship space, and that doors to all other rooms should be secondary. They also requested a visual connection between the entry and worship space.
The project must balance the various requests, including requested entry amenities such as a donation drop-off area, an accessible restroom with a baby changing station, a welcome desk, a screen or wall space for bulletins, a refreshments area, and dedicated storage. Depending on how the hall is designed, it can meet some of these needs. For example, refreshments might be able to be hosted in an accessible and convenient hall space. Additionally, parishioners requested a room adjacent to the entry and worship space for people to use as a quiet space before or during services (e.g., wedding parties, bereaved) and a technology booth to control lighting, sound, and recording equipment.
Nave / Central area of the church
The nave should have a 500-person seated capacity. Mezzanines should only be considered for overflow capacity, if at all. Additionally, there was an overwhelming demand for improving the nave’s acoustics and adding an audio induction loop system for people with impaired hearing.
Several parishioners suggested a 50-100 person chapel for smaller services (e.g., weekday mass, funerals). This suggestion would be practical from a design and operations standpoint (e.g., heating, acoustic design). The two worship spaces could be in one building or separate buildings.
The sanctuary could be lowered to improve accessibility. However, the altar should retain its prominence.
The sacristy could be one room instead of two, but it should be directly adjacent to the sanctuary. It must have a sacrarium that drains directly into the earth. A utility sink in the vestry is helpful for flower preparation and handling. An exterior entrance would be convenient but optional.
Parishioners requested the choir be a configurable area on one side of the sanctuary with dedicated services and storage.
Parishioners differed on whether to include artifacts from the former church buildings (e.g., stained glass windows). Some preferred the references, whereas others preferred a “new start” for the congregation.
Three private offices (i.e., Pastor, Finance, other) are needed, and a reception desk and 1-2 additional workstations for shared use. The offices should be near other Parish functions and readily identifiable as offices. All private offices must have a visible connection to the other offices and exterior while maintaining privacy. The Pastor’s office could incorporate a meeting area (4-6 person capacity); a second meeting room is an option if well-utilized. Moreover, the Pastor’s and Parish offices should have separate entrances to ensure visitor privacy and support varying business hours.
The Parish offices should include the following: a washroom, kitchenette (e.g., sink, toaster oven, microwave, and dishwasher), storage, and equipment room. They should also include secure, accessible, and fireproof storage for sacramental record books.
At a minimum, the project should include a small kitchen for Parish use, ideally accessible from the exterior (i.e., for loading and outdoor events). Parishioners have only provided use cases for basic kitchen facilities (e.g., snacks for the youth ministry and re-heating for the 12 Baskets program). However, current use might not reflect future programming (e.g., daytime warming shelter).
All Parish functions should have adequate and accessible general storage. The project should include dedicated and secured storage for outreach supplies, donated items, ministries, the Catholic Women’s League, and the Knights of Columbus. Storage needs for the Outreach ministry dramatically increase for short periods (e.g., Christmas food bank or preparing for a refugee family), including bulk and small storage. Parishioners noted that groups don't share kitchen items despite overlapping needs. The Liturgy ministry requires organized storage. They also require storage for large items (i.e., Christmas decorations) that are used occasionally but should be readily available. Cemetery records require fire-resistant storage, including letter-sized documents and rolled drawings. The music groups should have dedicated and securable storage.
The project should include a dwelling unit on the Parish property for clergy use (e.g., future use) and additional facilities for non-residents (e.g., community shower, restroom, laundry). Finally, a double door from the storage or kitchen would be helpful for loading.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who is AOA?
Archipelago, Office for Architecture (AOA) is an architecture practice led by Stephanie Koltun and Patrick Burke. They are dedicated to well-designed architecture and focus on affordable housing and other social-benefit projects. Their office is located in the north end of Halifax.
What is AOA’s role in the project?
The Archdiocese and Parish have engaged AOA as the Project Architect and Project Manager. If the project proceeds from Pre-Design, AOA will design all aspects of the project and coordinate all consultant services until the end of construction. This includes assisting the Archdiocese with selecting a General Contractor and reviewing construction to ensure the project is built to specifications.
Who else will be working on the project?
AOA requires the input of consultants throughout the project. AOA is the prime consultant and will coordinate, review, and manage the services of all other consultants. During Pre-Design, AOA will work with a surveyor, wetland consultant, civil engineer, cost consultant, and financial feasibility consultant to evaluate development options. We requested funding for their fees as part of a grant funding application. If the project proceeds from Pre-Design, AOA will coordinate a design team, including a structural engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, civil engineer, energy consultant, cost consultant, and fire protection engineer, among others.
How long will the project take?
If the project proceeds from Pre-Design, it will take several years to design and construct. The timing of each stage has yet to be determined. Each project component will likely have its own timeline, depending on financing, municipal approvals, and Parish priorities.
What is Pre-Design?
Pre-Design is the first phase of the Design stage. During Pre-Design, AoA identify project objectives, requirements, and costs. This information demonstrates the project’s feasibility and ensures the design will be informed by the people who will use the project.
What is the Pre-Design outcome?
At the end of Pre-Design, AoA will recommend rebuilding or renovating the existing Parish buildings. They will also make recommendations on the number, composition and locations of the housing units.
How long will Pre-Design take?
It will take approximately six to eight months.
What is AOA doing during Pre-Design?
AOA is engaging with the community to understand project objectives and requirements. They have interviewed project stakeholders and will continue to solicit insight. This information will complement ongoing work, including:
assessing the properties and existing building conditions;
analyzing the neighbourhood and housing needs;
determining design requirements (e.g., floor area, functionality), including ambitious accessibility, energy, and quality of life goals;
developing a financial feasibility plan to determine long-term affordability and financial sustainability, including rent projections;
developing construction budgets for the buildings; and
identifying and applying for funding for design services and construction costs.
What housing density will the project pursue?
The property is currently zoned R-2 (i.e., duplexes); however, they will likely pursue re-zoning or special approvals to increase the project’s density. The design team will begin by evaluating mid-density housing but will consider all options. The financial self-sufficiency of the building will be a deciding factor in the density.
Will the Parish buildings be renovated or rebuilt?
AOA will make a recommendation based on feedback from parishioners and the project’s objectives and requirements. During Pre-Design, they will perform a functional analysis of the current spaces and a building assessment to review their suitability for modification.
Is it more cost-effective to renovate or rebuild?
It depends. It is important to consider long-term operational costs in addition to construction costs when deciding whether to renovate or rebuild. Upgrading old buildings for a specific purpose (i.e. installing an elevator or fire protection system) can often require additional upgrades to other systems or assemblies. Currently, the church has several observable issues. For example, the building envelope (i.e., walls, windows) is uninsulated and doesn’t control moisture migration from the exterior to the interior (and vice versa). This issue can only be partially resolved, and it would still require extensive renovation (e.g., re-cladding). As well it is not very Accessible. There is limited access from few Accessible parking spots and no elevator in the building.
Is it possible to insulate the church from the interior?
Insulating the church from the interior might be an option; however, it is often a partial solution because the contractor cannot (practically) insulate below the slab or where walls and floors intersect. This could result in cold spots, an inconsistent air barrier, and moisture issues such as condensation, mold, and mildew.
Does the Parish need to replace the church roof?
The EPDM roof was recently installed and doesn’t appear to be an issue. The moisture damage is likely from moisture transmission through the wall assembly (i.e., the lack of insulation, moisture barrier failure, or both).
How much will the project cost?
At this time, the total costs for the project are not known. A cost consultant will develop a preliminary cost estimate at the end of Pre-Design. The consultant will update the estimate as the project develops.
Who will pay for the project?
The Parish will be responsible for costs associated with the Parish component, including church, hall, and offices. Proceeds from land sales could support these costs. The project will pay for the housing with non-repayable grants, low-interest and forgivable loans, and eventual revenue from the property’s commercial space.
What is AOA’s compensation for their work?
AOA has waived their fee for Pre-Design, including work on the Parish and housing components. If the project proceeds from Pre-Design, AOA’s fee will be a discounted percentage of the construction cost. For the housing component, AOA will pursue grants to pay for their fees and those of the consultants.
How will you determine the housing’s financial feasibility?
A financial feasibility consultant will perform a market analysis and develop financial models (i.e., projected revenues and expenses).
Will the housing generate a profit?
The housing will operate on a non-profit basis. It will be financially self-sufficient but is not intended to generate a profit. The operator will reinvest any profit from the housing component into housing maintenance, operations, and greater affordability.
Will the commercial space generate a profit?
The commercial space will operate on a for-profit basis; the profits will be directed into the housing operation.
How will AOA manage the construction budget?
Before construction begins, AOA works closely with a cost consultant, who will update cost estimates as the project progresses. The estimates become increasingly detailed as the design develops, and AOA will review them at each step to identify discrepancies. If an estimate exceeds the construction budget, AOA revises the design to bring it back on budget. Finally, AOA uses a detailed cost estimate to evaluate tenders during procurement. To ensure construction stays on budget, the Archdiocese will procure construction services on a fixed price basis.
Who will manage the housing?
An experienced housing operator will manage the transitional, deeply affordable, and affordable housing independently of the Parish. The Parish has yet to select an operator.
What role will the Parish have in housing operations?
The Parish will continue to provide support services with the operator for the transitional housing, similar to the support provided in the emergency shelter program. The transitional housing will have dedicated bathroom and kitchen facilities.
Will the Project reserve units for specific groups?
The reservation of housing units for specific groups (e.g., chaplaincy, new Canadians) may be determined in Pre-Design and informed by financial models, funding requirements, and Parish priorities.
Is the wooded area a wetland?
The process is underway to determine if the wooded area is a wetland and, if so, how it would impact development. Wetlands restrict but do not necessarily preclude development.
Is maintaining the status quo an option for the project?
The project might not proceed. However, existing buildings will need renovation either now or in the near future. The Archdiocese is keenly interested in this work as housing is an archdiocesan pastoral priority, and the Archdiocese is considering similar projects with other parishes.
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Stella Maris Parish Property Development Committee Members
Project Proponents / Steering Committee
F Rob Elford, Pastor, Stella Maris Parish, Halifax
John Stevens - Pastoral Life & New Evangelization Manager, Archdiocese of Halifax Yarmouth
Archipelago, Office for Architecture (AOA) - Patrick Burke and Stephanie Koltun
Stella Maris Parish Property Development Committee
Project Proponents and
Cleveland, Sheila, Chair of Parish Pastoral Council
Ainslea Cardinal, Assistant to the Pastor
Ronnie Lunn, Coordinator of Lay Ministries