A gap in the Beaches closed, with heritage preserved
Dave LeBlanc – Globe and Mail
Picture this: It’s a sunny Sunday in 1990, and a thirty-something couple stroll the boardwalk discussing dinner options on Queen St. E. Dad is pulling a bickering brother and sister along in a wagon as the gulls swoop and call overhead. In the distance, a sweet solution to the bickering – an ice cream stand – beckons.
For Shelley Fenton, this personal memory is made all the more sweet because, twenty years later, he’s back in the Beaches with his son, Shane Fenton, now 27. Except today, this president and vice-president of Reserve Properties are surveying their latest project, the conversion of the former Bellefair United Church into a condominium, retail and townhouse complex.
The 1922 Beaches landmark at 2000 Queen St. E. has been vacant since two congregations joined together and the surplus building was put up for sale about a year ago.
Out of 11 bidders, Reserve was chosen by the newly formed Beach United Church, says Shane Fenton, because “we really made an effort in getting to know them and showing them that our endgame and end design would do something that incorporated significant components of the church.”
And a fair bit will remain, including the south façade, the stout southeast corner steeple and the east façade. Along Queen, where the building now presents a blank face to the street (the entrance to the church has always been on Bellefair), large openings will be cut for commercial tenants. Retail activity, of course, will bring life to what is “essentially a gap in the fabric of the neighbourhood,” says Roland Rom Colthoff of RAW design, lead architect on the project.
RAW will also add two new storeys, and a landscaped “private street” will separate the 23 condo units in the church portion of the building from the six three-storey townhouses to be constructed where Kerley Hall now stands. Throughout, what’s new will be distinct from what’s original via a black-brown brick from Brampton; this brick will also be used where interventions to the old red brick must be made, such as around the new ground-level entrance on Bellefair: “It’ll look odd if you try and replicate what’s there now,” says RAW’s Erica Govan.
While the conversion of ecclesiastical architecture to common, earthly use is always a tricky proposition (and might offend a portion of the population), it bears keeping in mind that Reserve Properties was under no obligation to preserve any part of the building, since it didn’t have heritage designation. Also, the father-and-son team could have opted for a much bigger building behind the church façade by eliminating the landscaped courtyard and building seven or eight storeys in a stepped configuration to minimize shadow-casting on neighbouring homes.
By asking heritage architect Christopher Borgal to consult, and by hiring a sensitive boutique architecture firm, the Fentons have found a way to respect both personal memories and the collective one all Beaches visitors share. “Commercially, we’re not going to make as much money as we would if we built an extra 30,000 square feet,” says the elder Mr. Fenton. “But at this stage in my life – I’ve been doing this for 29 years – we said, ‘Let’s make a statement.’ “
And it certainly is a handsome statement that will attract much attention, but save for a few Gothic windows and unusual floor plans in some units, there won’t be much that’s church-like about interiors because, unfortunately, the congregation took everything (even stuff that was nailed down) for use in the other church or as cherished mementos. As for the few bits that remain, such as staircases, wainscoting or wood trim, these will be retained if interior design firm II BY IV Design Associates can find uses for them.
But no matter, a tour of the on-site presentation centre shows a richness of finish selections combined with Scavolini cabinets and European appliances that will appeal to a wide range of buyers. Interestingly, the two model kitchens on view each reflect the personal taste of father and son: the more traditional kitchen is Shelley’s choice, while the hipper, modern kitchen is Shane’s. “That was kind of fun to do,” says the older Mr. Fenton.
“Do you guys have a wager as to which one will be more popular?” asks Ms. Govan with a laugh.
Since this is the Beaches, amenities will include a fitness centre and a doggie spa to hose off Rover after chasing seagulls in the wet sand. Prices start in the mid-300,000s and go to over a million.
Dutch architect Herman Hertzberger wrote that the more a person is involved with the “form and content” of his or her surroundings, the more those surroundings become “appropriated” and internalized by that person. Just as one’s spiritual home invests a person in their community, one’s physical home, too, is a place that can nurture the soul. Thanks to the Fentons, this building will have done both.
“Ninety-nine percent of architects would have taken this thing and razed it,” finishes the elder Mr. Fenton. “And you know what, when Shane does pull me along in the wagon, I can look up and say, ‘Hey, we did that.’ “
Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information – 416−388−1960
Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
They did not write these articles, they reproduce them here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. They do not work for any builders.
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