ST. MATTHEW’S CHURCH – A PRESENCE IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD FOR OVER 100 YEARS:
St. Matthew’s Anglican Church started in west central Winnipeg in 1896, first as a home church and then in 1897 in a small church building at the corner of Ellice and Maryland ( a later larger church eventually became the West End Cultural Centre). In 1913 the church moved to a new building at its current site at the corner of St. Matthew’s Ave and Maryland St. In 1944 a fire destroyed this building. However, funds were raised and a new building opened a couple of years later and the church thrived. From its early days, St. Matthew’s opened its doors to weekday programming and this increased substantially in the last 30 years with several community agencies and programs housed in the lower level. In recent years the congregation has shrunk as many moved to the developing suburbs and the church realized it could not afford the expense of maintaining such a large building. The congregation was left with a difficult decision – to close its doors or undertake a very different use of its space. They chose the latter.
THE STARTING POINT for THE WESTEND COMMONS:
In the fall of 2006, St. Matthew’s Anglican Church received extraordinary unexpected bequests from two women. Together, the two gifts for a total of $500,000 opened the door for St. Matthew’s congregation to envision and support the development of The WestEnd Commons.Without their generosity, this development would not have been possible. We acknowledge Evelyn Stratton and Margeurite Robinson with gratitude.
HOW IT CONTINUED:
Talks began between St. Matthew’s Church and Grain of Wheat Church Community who also worship in the building until St. Matthews Non Profit Housing Inc (SMNPH) was incorporated in 2009 with St. Matthew’s and Grain of Wheat as the two founding partners. The Church provided a 50 year lease to St. Matthews Non Profit Housing Inc. and itself became a tenant in the building. An eleven member board of directors was appointed with representation from the founding partners and the wider community. An architectural firm (ft3) and a project manager (Gerry Humphreys) were hired. All three levels of government contributed funding; foundations awarded grants; and gifts came from businesses, charities and many, many, individuals.
AND ON IT WENT:
Initial work involved the lower level so all agencies and programs housed there moved upstairs for about a year while this was completed. Then everyone, including St. Matthew’s Church, moved downstairs so the work of turning the church’s previous sanctuary into the housing units could begin. On November 1, 2014, the WEC welcomed its first new tenants- the families who will live in the housing units. In the lower level, the Neighbourhood Resource Centre remains home to a number of agencies / programs and also is available for casual and long term rentals.