By GURPREET GHAG and USTAD KHARIA
With sketches in hand, planning consultant and architect Joseph Caricari unveiled plans for the resurrection of a historic century-old church in the heart of Bloordale.
In front of residents and other community members, Caricari unveiled how he and his company would convert the Neo-Gothic style church into 23 loft-style units, while maintaining the church’s exterior.
But the plan also called for the addition of a building with another 14 more units, rising from the church’s parking lot. That section would also have underground parking for residents.
The church, designed by the historic Toronto firm G.M. Miller and Company, was the Perth Avenue Methodist Church completed in 1913. Since then, the church was also associated to the United Church of Canada and most recently the Seventh Day Adventists, according to City of Toronto documents.
Architect George Miller co-designed Massey Hall and was commissioned the Gladstone Hotel, among many other buildings now protected as heritage sites.
But some area residents at the community meeting organized by area Councillor Ana Bailao have concerns about the plans for the church.
David Hodowany, a resident of Symmington Avenue for more than 20 years, expressed concern over the proposed second building.
“One of my main concerns is the height of the building,” Hadowany said. “As it stands, from what I see, anybody from the ‘B’ building will be able to see into my backyard. It’s an intrusion of my privacy.²
While Hodowany didn’t mind what was being proposed for the church, he wondered why the parking lot just couldn¹t serve as a parking lot.
Resident Michaela Otto, who lives just two houses north of the church, said there were a number of things that she did not approve.
“It’s not going to be actually keeping with the neighborhood in any way,” she said.
“The look, the price, the height of the structure, those three aspects are nothing at all like what already exists,” Otto said.
“I don¹t understand why you would put in cheap units that start at $275,000 in a neighborhood that has nothing available at that price,” she said. “Why not compliment the value that¹s here? Why not raise the value of our property?
“Plus I’m going to be losing sun,” Otto said. “Plus I’m going to have this big box everywhere I look.”
Indeed, Otto felt the meeting was nothing more than a show.
“It felt to me like a show that they were willing to listen, but not willing to really listen,” she said. “People who had more to say, they did not want to hear from them and it’s not like they responded, they just listened and said that they were taking notes.
“If they really wanted our input why didn’t this meeting happen before they put in all that money to make the plans?” Otto asked. “We could have told them right off the bat that we didn¹t want a building that tall and dense.”
Bailao said the meeting was a courtesy for area residents and to find some agreement over the plans.
The meeting was an act of goodwill that most developers don’t do, she said.
“He could have walked straight into city hall and put in an application,” Bailao said of the developer. He agreed to listen to the community before putting it in.
“So, we’re doing all this work before he puts it in, because the last thing we want is to lose control of these kinds of things,” she said. “We don’t want it to go straight into City Hall. We want to know what the community wants.”
Bailao said the plans are not final and everything said would be taken into consideration for the next set of drafts.
After the meeting, Caricari said the initial plans could be changed to reflect what the developers believe would suit the community.
“We had a whole bunch of schemes and we went through the city, had lots of discussions with them to try to understand what they want to see and what they don’t want to see so this is a culmination of a lot of matters,” he said.
Greg Dell, a planning consultant on the project, said that the concerns raised in the meeting were legitimate and expected.
“Nothing surprised me,” Dell said. “I look at every project and think if I lived in that area, ‘What would I be worried about?”
Bailao said the meeting was a success.
“The people next door were concerned about the height and suggested that they step back a little, there were some parking concerns, but I think overall what they’re going to be doing with the church is a good thing,” she said.
The councillor said she didn¹t see too many things she didn’t like about the plans, but some small changes would better suit the community.
“I would really like to see more two bedroom units,” she said. “This is a family-oriented community and I would love to see more family units.”
Bailao said the developers are now going to take the comments and concerns into consideration, and then contact her for another possible meeting with the community before filing his application into City Hall.
Bailao expects the next meeting in early June.