St Joseph's Church in Collingwood should not be torn down as it retains "important architectural, historical [and] cultural features", a conservation expert has declared, according to a report in The Melbourne Times Weekly.
Nigel Lewis, whose report was commissioned by residents who are fighting to save the church at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, said the fire-damaged building remained the focus of the parish complex in Otter Street and should be rebuilt.
"This humble church is ... significant as one of the most historically important expressions of Irish diaspora in Victoria," Mr Lewis said.
"Collingwood was one of the most ... important 19th century communities of post-gold rush and post-famine Irish communities in Victoria."
The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne is appealing Yarra City Council's decision to reject its application to demolish the church but leave the tower and a small adjoining section of wall to build a playground for students at St Joseph's Primary School.
The case started last week and will return on July 19.
A report commissioned by the Archdiocese stated the church was unstable and that much of the former church's heritage significance was lost in the 2007 fire.
Archdiocese spokesman James O'Farrell declined a request to comment as the case is ongoing.