Asbury and West's Renovation
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Why Renovate? This is an exciting and challenging time for Asbury and West United Church! Our congregation can trace our history back to 1812. During the past two hundred years, we have made significant changes to the church buildings to meet the changing needs of the congregation and the neighbourhood that we serve.
In the late 1940's and into the 50's Asbury and West’s congregation grew in numbers. The Bathurst and Lawrence area was a rapidly growing suburb where houses were affordable.
The 1898 church building that was originally built close to the Bathurst Street side walk was moved back further on the two-acre lot that had been given to us by the Mulholland family in 1939. In the early ‘50s an administrative wing was added to the building. The congregation continued to grow and the decision was made to attach a 600 seat Sanctuary to the other two building components. A famous architect, Douglas E. Kertland designed the new sanctuary.
Many of the young families who came to Asbury and West moved further away to the new suburbs. Over a period of time, the large congregation dwindled in numbers. This created a huge problem for the people who remained. The smaller number of church members could not afford to maintain the large and sprawling complex of church buildings. The congregation realized that once again it had to make changes to the church building so that it could meet its current and future needs.
We knew that we had to unlock the value of the land by selling part of our property to a developer. We wanted to replace all the existing buildings with a smaller, environmentally friendly building that would be designed to meet a wide range of programming needs. The new building was planned to go on the north-east corner of the lot giving the church 'street presence'. These plans had to be changed when we spoke to the people at North York City Planning Department and their Heritage Preservation Services Division.
The congregation realized that once again it had to make changes to the church building so that it could meet its current and future needs ... However ...
We were told by North York City Planning Department that it was okay to pull down the 1898 building and the 1952 building but we had to keep the 1958 portion of the building designed by D.E. Kertland. The 1958 building was to be designated as a heritage site and a Heritage Easement to be imposed upon us.
Heritage Preservation Services claims that the ’58 building is a landmark and must be preserved. We were surprised that the Province of Ontario had given the city the power to tell us what we must do with our own property and surprised that the city offered no financial compensation for the expropriation of our property rights. We will tell you more about that at a later time.
The congregation engaged Black & Moffat, a well known firm of architects, to determine if the 1958 building could be renovated to meet the needs of the congregation. Black & Moffat have a great deal of experience renovating church buildings. There was good news and bad news. The building could be renovated but the cost of renovating would be $1.5 million more than it would have cost to build a brand new church building. We were discouraged but not defeated.
When we decided to sell part of the church’s land, we interviewed a wide range of developers. Some wanted to build luxury assisted living condos, and others thought that the site would be suitable for up-scale town houses. We didn’t like those plans. If we had to sell part of the church property, we wanted the community to benefit as well as the congregation.