Toronto Church Loft Conversions
Buyers praise heavenly loft conversions
By Derek Raymaker – Globe and Mail
If there is a higher power, would he or she prefer hardwood floors or granite countertops? And would he or she want to pay $20,000 for a parking space?
In the first half of the 20th century, the upright citizens of Toronto the Good distinguished themselves as among the most god-fearing in the Great Dominion, enthusiastically jamming into pews every Sunday.
If Torontonians observe the same devotion to the divine currently, they do so quietly and usually in the privacy of their own homes. This has left a lot of clergy and parish elders in a great quandary: Do they continue to preach to thinning ranks of worshippers, or do they merge into a tighter circle and offer up their prime real estate to the dark but necessary forces of commerce?
The land may be enticing, but church structures themselves are of limited use when it comes to anything other than the Lord’s work. But since 1999, when loft conversions went into full swing around Toronto, some underused churches have been reborn as loft residences.
These are not slam-dunk loft conversions when it comes to construction or sales. Reconfiguring the often angular and rounded shapes of a church to suit the needs of buyers requires architectural finesse, which does not come cheap, and there are almost always some ugly surprises to deal with after construction begins. This could be anything from termite control to new masonry to being forced to get rid of splendid stained-glass features for the greater good of maintaining structural integrity.
All of these alterations are expensive, and these costs are in turn passed on to the buyer. Unless an addition is included, most church structures can’t really host more than 25 or 30 suites, meaning that the costs of an expensive restoration and conversion can’t be spread out over a large number of buyers.
On the buyer side, a church conversion is really a specialized niche product. Many buyers may find bunking down in a former House of God to be something of a novelty, but in resale terms, these products often don’t have certain features that help sustain the unit’s value, such as terrace space, common amenities and parking.
While these church loft conversions might have a lot of risks associated with them, they are not without their unique features, not the least of which is that they are often in residential areas known for their peace and quiet. Suites are also often more likely to have two levels and unique layouts.
Those who do buy these suites are almost exclusively end-user residents – meaning they’re not going to rent out the units to tenants. This personal commitment helps maintain a seamless aesthetic quality.
The most recent of these conversions to come on the market was The Church on Dovercourt Road between Bloor and College streets, which now houses 28 lofts in the handsome neo-Gothic edifice of the former Centennial Methodist Church.
Two blocks north, Lux Group Inc. is well under way in its conversion of a more austere 1910 church into a 23-suite loft conversion project. With the least expensive suite priced at $499,000 for 1,057 square feet going up to over $700,000 for 1,900 square feet, you can see why these products aren’t in the ballpark for most condo buyers. Single-family homes in the surrounding Bloor and Dufferin area go for similar prices.
A little further west, on Sunnyside Avenue in High Park, another Gothic revival Methodist church has been transformed into The Abbey, which recently completed construction. Of the 24 suites in the grey limestone project, the most recent sale was well into the $700,000s.
Comment: With no factories or warehouses left to convert, watch for even more churches to be converted. Right now I have my eye on The Victoria Lofts, nearing completion at Annete and Medland. Just down the street is the old Czechoslovakian Baptist Church at 600 Annete. Watch for others on Wallace Avenue, Jones north of Queen, Parkdale and elsewhere…
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 just reproduce them here for people
who are interested in Toronto real estate. They do not work for any builders.
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