Following letter is from Denise Harris of the Etobicoke Historical Society, who has given permission for its posting at this website.
[I have broken longer blocks of text into shorter paragraphs and have added a subheading.]
The letter, sent on Jan. 21, 2013, is addressed to Georgia Kuich, Heritage Preservation Officer, City of Toronto:
Subject: Designation of Wesley Mimico United Church at 2 Station Road.
[Click on link in previous sentence to access earlier blog posts regarding the building. Also, please note the next community forum regarding the Wesley Mimico redevelopment project is on Mon., Jan. 28, 2013 at 7:30 pm.]
On behalf of the board of directors of the Etobicoke Historical Society, I am writing in support of the request to designate Wesley Mimico United Church at 2 Station Road under the Ontario Heritage Act.
The congregation has existed since at least 1863, and this building has been an important gathering centre and landmark in the community since 1922. The architect of the 1922 church was the renowned John Charles Batstone Horwood, and his son, Eric Horwood, designed the 1953 addition to the church.
This building is one of Mimico’s few remaining institutional landmarks. It possesses attributes in all of the three possible criteria areas for designation: physical or design value; historical or associative value; and contextual value.
Over the past year, members of the Etobicoke Historical Society’s board of directors have attended numerous community meetings at the church and observed as the church members (with public input) have explored options for redeveloping the church in a way that will allow them to financially ensure the continuance of their congregation and to repair their crumbling, inaccessible church structure.
Heritage Impact Assessment
We have seen them progress from an initial proposal that included a six-storey building and demolishing all of the church but the bell tower, through several iterations, to their final proposal (described in the Heritage Impact Assessment) that retains many of the building’s very real heritage attributes within a four-storey structure.
The Etobicoke Historical Society has reviewed the church’s final proposal in some detail. We fully acknowledge that preservation of the entire exterior structure of the church is the ideal, but also believe there are other factors at play here that warrant consideration.
We believe that the current church redevelopment plan strikes an acceptable balance between the congregation’s need to make changes in order to continue to exist, and the need to respect and preserve the building’s heritage features. The scale of the proposed changes appears appropriate for the site, and the design of the planned new built structures supports the most existing heritage attributes.
Simply put, if the congregation cannot implement a plan that will generate income through the addition of life lease apartments for seniors, the congregation will close, and ultimately the church building will be sold by the United Church of Canada.
A new owner would likely propose either demolition or even more extensive changes to the structure. And if the church is sold, the church congregation, with its own social history going back to 1863, its supporting influence in the community, and its role as a community institution, will be lost to the Mimico neighbourhood forever.
For these reasons, the Etobicoke Historical Society supports the development plan proposed by the Wesley Mimico United Church and recommends that the designation of all remaining heritage attributes occur coincident with approval of the church redevelopment.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Etobicoke Historical Society