A fire in a former Christian Reformed Church building in St. Catharines, Ont., last week, hasn’t delayed plans to redevelop the property as housing for seniors. Kings Cross Seniors Communities, which was gifted the building in 2014 when the former Maranatha CRC disbanded, is going ahead with an 83-unit mixed market housing build, and the demolition of the partially burned church is already complete.
An online video by 905 Productions had shots of the blaze and commentary from St. Catharines Fire Chief Dave Upper, who said heavy equipment for the planned demolition was already in place and utilities to the building had been turned off before the fire was detected April 21. The Hamilton Spectator reported that “police arrested a man nearby in relation to the fire and later released him with a charge of obstructing a peace officer.”
Henry Vegter, who serves on the board of Kings Cross Seniors Communities, said there was nothing left in the building—even the remaining Psalter Hymnals and archive of bulletins had been offered as souvenirs to attendees of a recognition service hosted on the property a month earlier. The Kings Cross board set up a tent and 60 chairs in the parking lot March 21, Vegter said, to give locals with ties to the church an opportunity to recognize its impact ahead of the building's removal. The cornerstone, marked “Maranatha 1955,” was removed and will be placed in the new building, to be called Maranatha Place. Vegter said more than 80 people arrived for the short service of recognition where John Vanderburgh, pastor of Trinity CRC in St. Catharines, gave a message of encouragement.
The building had been vacant since fall 2022 when the Kings Cross corporation ended a lease with Hope Bible Church, a congregation with the Great Commission Collective, and prepared to go ahead with development.
Vegter said at that time he began distributing items within the building—the organ, pews, pulpit, lighting fixtures, doors, trim, appliances—anything that could be used—to several local congregations and charities. A grand piano is temporarily housed at Beacon Christian School, a Christian elementary school across from the church property. Vegter said it will be repatriated to a common room at Maranatha Place when construction is complete.
Kings Cross Seniors Communities is a joint venture of the deacons of St. Catharines’ Christian Reformed churches: Trinity, Jubilee Fellowship CRC, and Covenant CRC. Operating for 50 years, the corporation already runs and maintains three apartment and life-lease unit buildings in the area.