Former church building for sale, must be moved

Katie Tower
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Sackville's former United Church is up for sale once again, although this time the building must be removed from its current location.

SACKVILLE, N.B. – Sackville’s former United Church building is back up on the market – this time for a dollar.

The 135-year-old building on the corner of York and Main Street is for sale once again but any potential buyers now face the cost of moving the large structure.

Property owner John Lafford of Lafford Realty Inc. said he has listed the building through a local real estate agent and is open to discussions with anyone interested in purchasing the former church.

Lafford said he decided to put a sale price of $1 on the building because he recognizes there will be significant costs involved in relocating it to another site.

“If someone could move the church, we don’t really want to profit from that,” said Lafford.

The Laffords purchased the property (which includes nearly three acres of land surrounding the church) more than a year ago after a decision was made by the Sackville United Church council to downsize to a smaller and more efficient building, one which didn’t require hundreds of thousands of dollars in maintenance and repairs.

Lafford has been busy over the past year developing commercial and residential units on another section of the property but he admits the time is soon coming to begin making plans for the rest of the site, hence the need to sell the church building.

A group of community members have come together in the interest of saving the local landmark and Lafford said he has tried to give them ample time to develop an action plan, “something viable” that would ensure the building could be maintained.

“I didn’t want to make any rash decisions,” he said, “and I think I’ve kept a pretty open mind.”

But with more than a year now passed, and very little movement to show for it, Lafford said it’s time to pursue other options to “see what could happen.”

As a Sackville native himself, he said he completely understands the community’s interest in saving the former church building and said he is still looking into whether there’s an opportunity for Lafford Realty to save and re-purpose the building. He said he would need outside funding, likely from government, to pursue that option, however, which is challenging for businesses to acquire.

“The building’s for sale but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up .  . .  we’d like to see it saved. But it can’t be on our backs solely.”

He also acknowledged that there’s a lot of renovation and repair work to be done on the building if it were to stay in their hands, which may not prove cost efficient or manageable.

“We’ll see . . . we don’t really know the answer yet.

The community group SPLASH (Sackville People Leading Action to Save Heritage) is still holding out hope it’s not too late to preserve what they say is an iconic historic landmark. They are trying to come up with enough funds to purchase the building but don’t want to see it moved from its central downtown location.

“We are raising money to help save the church,” said Demian Hammock, a key executive member of SPLASH.

Hammock said several committee members will be approaching the Laffords about purchasing the building and removing the requirement of having to move it.

“What we need to do at this point is get a definitive price . . . and see if they’re open to that.”

He said the Laffords have been very understanding throughout this process so far and the committee is very cognizant of the fact that they are operating a business and can’t continue to lose money by maintaining the building long term.

Hammock said the committee’s plan is to repurpose the church into a community centre/business commons space, which they believe has the potential to provide an economic development resurgence in Sackville by bringing together non-profit groups, innovative entrepreneurs, artists and other partners who can feed ideas off each other.

“We want to build a focal point that’s a success for the town . . . to keep some of the talent we produce here and to also attract others here,” he said. “Basically we want to save this historical church and try to have an economic impact on the town in a positive way.”

SPLASH has been raising funds at the weekly farmers’ market, with coin jars at local businesses and at various other events. He said the donations that have been made show that there is community interest in saving this building and will hopefully help to leverage other funds when the time comes.

Hammock said the community centre project will require funding from other levels and/or from an “angel” donor, someone with deep pockets.

For more information on the SPLASH campaign, check out the website at or look for their Facebook page.

Organizations: Lafford Realty, Sackville United Church

Geographic location: SACKVILLE, York

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