giovedì, dicembre 28, 2006

New life for disused city kirk a step closer

by JOANNA VALLELY (jvallely@edinburghnews.com)

The Scotsman, Thu 28 Dec 2006
A BID to turn a derelict city centre church into a home for Tibetan Buddhist monks and Mother Teresa nuns has moved a step closer.
City entrepreneur Sir Tom Farmer wants to buy Blackfriars Church and transform it into an inter-faith residence and cultural centre. It was put on the market more than a year ago but owners the Italian Consulate have delayed taking a decision on the C-listed building's future.
However, after a meeting with Edinburgh Central MSP Sarah Boyack, the Italians have agreed to make a decision in January.
The United Presbyterian Church on Blackfriars Street has lain empty for more than a decade, after plans to turn it into Italian Cultural Institute were ditched.
City trader Thom McCarthy, who runs meditation classes in premises opposite the church, originally suggested the site's potential as an inter-faith centre.
The idea grew after it won the backing of Sir Tom Farmer and others such as Victor Spence, the general secretary of the Edinburgh Interfaith Association and high-profile Edinburgh hairdresser Charlie Miller.
Sir Tom bid to buy the premises earlier this year and Malcolm Fraser architects offered to look at rehabilitating the building.
Ms Boyack said that, along with Holyrood Councillor Bill Cunningham, she had met the Italian Consul Dr Andrea Macchioni to discuss the church. She said: "It was a cordial meeting and I took the chance to talk about the background to the development, highlighting the Buddhist connection, the inter-faith support and the residence that would be created for the Sisters of Mother Teresa.
"We emphasised the strong political support that exists and the benefits of the development for the area. He was clear he planned to make a decision in January."
Cllr Cunningham said they had been told the reason for the delay was due to changes in the Italian government this year. He added: "We've put our plea in for the inter-faith centre but I think it will go to the highest bidder. My worry is that they turn it into flats."
Mr McCarthy said: "I sincerely believe the Italian Consulate in Edinburgh recognises its obligations to the people of this city and that the decision won't be solely dependent on financial criteria."
Italian Consul Dr Macchioni said: "It should be regarded as a positive development the fact that things are actually moving. As soon as possible we will move to the next step of the process."

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