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St Joseph's Church may be part of arts, social ventures cluster

DUE FOR A FACELIFT: The church might be repainted in its original colours. There's also a plan to transform its Parochial Parish House into a centre for the arts and redevelop the adjacent 141 Victoria Street premises.


    Dec 14, 2015

    St Joseph's Church may be part of arts, social ventures cluster

    FOR the past decade, the 103-year-old St Joseph's Church has stood in a faded blue coat of paint in the heart of Singapore's civic district.

    But it could soon be given a new lease of life.

    In April, the Catholic Archdiocese tasked the chairman of the church's executive pastoral council, James Boss, to undertake a feasibility study on its redevelopment.

    Speaking to The Straits Times, Professor Boss said the project includes creating a new cluster of buildings.

    The plan is to transform the three-storey, century-old Parochial Parish House of St Joseph's Church into a centre for the arts housing a public gallery with a collection of Vatican art, a black box performance theatre and facilities for cultural programmes and religious outreach activities.

    The project will involve the redevelopment of the adjacent 141 Victoria Street premises, which comprises a reserved plot of land and a conserved annex building.

    The site is currently occupied by the Nanyang Academy of Fine Art's (Nafa's) Campus V. Its lease expires on Aug 31 next year.

    The annex building, which used to house the four-storey St Anthony's Boys' School, will likely house social enterprises such as cafes which provide employment for the underprivileged. The two buildings will be connected by an atrium and the new cluster will be called the Pinacoteca.

    Prof Boss said the purpose of the project is to integrate the church and the new buildings to "create an environment conducive for worship and cultural and artistic pursuits of the community".

    The church's existing boundary wall, added in the 1970s, will also be demolished to open up the space.

    "The aim is to blend the old with the new and to get both the young and the old to better utilise our facilities in the civic cluster," said Prof Boss, who was awarded the papal Benemerenti medal for his service to the parish community and for his work on the redevelopment project.

    On major feast days, the church is filled with 1,500 people. The monument also attracts tourists.

    The Urban Redevelopment Authority said in a statement that 141 Victoria Street was leased to Nafa as a temporary campus while its new campus extension at 80 Bencoolen Street is being completed.

    Nafa said this extension will be ready by the beginning of the second quarter of 2017. A Nafa spokesman said for now, it plans to renew its lease at 141 Victoria Street till 2018.

    Prof Boss said he is working closely with the National Heritage Board's Preservation of Sites and Monuments to repaint the church in its original colours. For instance, the cupola dome's old gold hue will be reinstated.

    New lights will also be installed to highlight key features such as its central octagonal belfry tower and cross. Italian lighting experts have been hired for this task.

    The painting and lighting projects are likely to cost about $800,000 and are expected to be completed by the first half of next year.