Community centre idea back in the forefront

Many residents see the former St. Joseph’s School as filling a need

The former St. Joseph’s School converted to the St. Joseph’s Artist Studios in 2019. (File photo by Don Bodger)

The suggestion has already come up. What about a community hall for the former St. Joseph’s School space?

Many would agree Chemainus is sadly lacking in that department without a gathering place for special events.

The community centre idea came up previously for the school before the Cowichan Valley Intentional Recovery Community Society managed to win over Island Catholic Schools with its bid for the property. The organization’s planned use of the site for a women’s long term recovery facility has fallen through, prompting the immediate call for a community centre option to happen before the property is potentially lost to development or some other use that might not seem as ideal.

The former school, as you’ll recall, closed in June of 2018. The Diocese reached an agreement that led to the formation of the St. Joseph’s Artists Studio with a grand opening almost a year later in May of 2019 and the gym was also rented out to South Island Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

The Diocese continued to explore other options, while seeking to retain a place of worship for the St. Joseph’s Chemainus community, to pay off its $850,000 of accumulated school debt and to make a deal that would not just focus on acquiring money, but have a community outreach component.

Several rumours and potential options later, the Diocese accepted the CVIRCS proposal. The organization went about its work to get the necessary upgrades done, but it proved fiscally unattainable for the group.

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Remaining artists, who have long been alerted they would potentially be required to move at any time, continue to rent their studios until further notice.

Island Catholic Schools wants to ensure St. Joseph’s Church can remain on the property, but is anxious to dispense of the rest of it. The parish council formed an options committee to explore the possibilities that got slowed down during the last two years of COVID.

Now the ball is back in Chemainus residents’ court to see if someone can get this community centre option to fly. It will take some capital and an effective business plan.

But time is of the essence before another project comes along first and it’s now or never, for that site at least.