Al Loustel would like to see Christians look outside the walls of their churches.
Loustel is a member of the Wesley United Church, where the main sanctuary is only used for about two hours per week.
“I cannot, at a personal level anymore, abide a building like this and spending the kind of money that we spend on building like this,” he said. “(It’s) really, in my mind, kind of selfish.
“If we are going to be spending this money, then we ought to be dealing with social issues, and housing is at the root of social issues.”
It’s this line of thinking that brought the Ark Project into existence about two years ago, with a small group of churchgoers joining a committee to start thinking about their ambitious plans for the community.
The project, as it’s currently envisioned, consists of between eight and 10 acres of land within the city devoted to not only affordable housing, but also enough amenities to build a small community.
“We’ve talked about making a community so the seniors aren’t isolated, and where there are young people,” committee member Gil Streeton said. “We’re talking about creating a … community, not just a building.”
A pool, recreation area, gardens, walkways, a church and various other things could be part of this project, he said.
Recognizing this as a multi-million-dollar project, Loustel said that he realizes the project is ambitious and will require many partners to come on board for it to become a reality.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. - Micah 6:8, cited by Al Loustel as a guiding principle behind the Ark Project
“We would like to build a community that is across the demographic, from young families with children right through to seniors,” he said, noting that the underlying motivation is having housing units remain affordable.
“This is not high-end condos or townhouses, this is a place where you can be comfortable and accessible to a wide range of people.”
Although the committee has had an architect draw up a tentative plan, Loustel said that they have no illusion that it’ll end up looking as it’s currently envisioned.
“This gives people, conceptually, an idea of what might transpire,” he said.
“We want to have people to ask questions and make comments to bring our plans forward.”
The church is hosting a community hall style meeting on Nov. 13, beginning at 9 a.m., and they’d like to see as many people as possible turn up to share their insight into what the open-ended project should look like.
“This is a study — something we’re looking at the feasibility of,” committee member Nadia Stevenson said.
“If we do some partnering, maybe everyone’s dreams can come together and become possible, rather than each organization going on its own.”