Many churches are sitting vacant in every corner of the region but one building in Saint John has managed to escape the wrecking ball.

Saint John’s130-year-old Gothic Arches cover most of a city block, but it hasn’t been used as a church since 1999.

Its new owner, Jody McCairns, says he plans to breathe new life into the space. McCairns has a background in construction management and was looking for a project that combines heritage and housing.

Now he has hired architects to turn the building into condominiums.

“It allows for a lot of creativity and with the right vision and right design, it allows for huge open concept spaces with soaring ceilings,” says McCairns, who moved his family from Ontario to Saint John.

Neighbours have eyed the vacant building for many years, fearing it would eventually decay to the point where it would have to be demolished.

“That’s not going to happen. I had fears it might, but the inspiration of this young gentleman is encouraging,” says neighbour Art Melanson.

Many Maritime communities are struggling to find a future for similar former church buildings that remain structurally sound.

“These are fabulous buildings, they hold special emotion for most Canadians,” says real estate agent Bob McVicar. “They are significant in our history and our architecture, but they’re difficult to find an economically viable and sustainable repurposing, so that’s the challenge.”

McVicar says condos are a viable option and many churches are being developed into condos across the country.

“Between completed and ongoing projects, there are about 20 historical places of worship that are currently being converted to condos,” says McVicar.

Before it was sold, the property was listed for about $400,000.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Mike Cameron