Wesley Mimico United Church community forum on April 8, 2013 described the church’s redevelopment plans

The most recent Wesley Mimico United Church community forum took place on April 8, 2013.

The next one is on June 24, 2013.

Background about the Wesley Mimico redevelopment project  – and related topics, of which there are many – can be found at the Wesley Mimico United Church Category.

The April 8 report is subject to correction.

History of the church

Some items will have been updated since April 8, 2013. Updates are not included here.

From my notes:

In 1864 the Methodist congregation bought some property and built their first church, which they used until 1922. The church was where the Mimico Adult Learning Centre is now located. The first building was sold to the municipality, which used it as a municipal hall.

The cornerstone for a new church, located on Station Road, was laid in 1922. The church building was completed in 1924. It was identified at the time as a Sunday school.

In the 1950s a plan was in developed for two additions. One addition was built; it features an entrance on the Mimico Avenue side of the building. Large steel girders, visible in the basement, were installed to hold up the structure at the entrance.

The 1953 addition was completed in 1954.

The dedication service for the addition coincided with the arrival of Hurricane Hazel on October 17, 1954. The Lakeshore Road bridge over the Humber River became impassable and the Bloor Street bridge was closed to all but emergency traffic.

The car carrying the officiant for the dedication service was allowed to proceed, however, as an emergency vehicle, and the dedication was completed as scheduled. [I assume the reference here is to the Bloor Street bridge, but am not certain.]

An additional 16-ft addition was to be added at the north side of the building but that didn’t happen. It’s not known why.

The current building has become difficult to manage. It’s hard to keep it together. It’s become a burden in costs and maintenance. [Many churches in Toronto have encountered a challenge of this nature.]

Faith and Hope Team

About six years ago the Faith and Hope Team [it’s also referred to as the Faith and Hope Committee; I don’t recall which term was used at this point in the meeting] was created.

In the summer of 2011 Deirdre Gibson of Gibson and Associates sent a letter to the church. She noted that laws were changing and churches would need the services of consultants with regard to building matters.

The letter led to the possibility of of the church working with the architectural firm of Robert Reimers and Associates. Reimers and Gibson, who are a husband and wife team, would act as consultants.

Repurpose, Renew, and Add

The initial proposal for addressing the challenges faced by the congregation called for the demolition of the church building except for the bell tower.

The community didn’t like the concept.

Subsequently, the concept of Repurpose, Renew, and Add was adopted.

Forty-six pounds of paper went to the City Hall as the zoning application.

The church has confirmed it would stay.

The essential principle is that the congregation continues, as does the church building.

A mix of one, two, and three-bedroom housing would be added. There would be some two and three-bedroom units to allow flexibility – for example, there would be a property manager and superintendent; the need for a few larger units might arise.

A long conversation is expected with the City of Toronto. There may be between 36 and 48 units. The design is based on the concept of aging in place. This would involve less parking spaces than otherwise.

The goal is for seniors to remain in the community; the redevelopment project seeks to offer something that is not yet in place. For example, consider a situation of an adult with a developmentally handicapped child, or a brother and sister wishing to share a unit.

A person has been hired to count parking spaces and look at the demand for parking. That was done in February 2013. There are currently nine parking spaces in the back of the building on the north side.

Those spaces would be replaced. Taking into account other needs, a total of 25 parking spaces in the underground level of the building would be set up.

Height

The peak of the church would define the height of the redeveloped building. Construction would not go above that except for mechanical equipment.

The profile of the Bell tower, and the exterior of it, would remain the same.

Robert Reimers displayed a flowchart. It was noted that Matthew Premru is the official gatekeeper at the city, with regard to this project. He’s the planner they work with.

A pre-application meeting was held. They’ve talked to the neighborhood. These steps are among the items on the flowchart. There’s still a way to on progression through the chart.

It was noted that planning is proceeding consistent with the Official Plan. An Official Plan amendment is not being sought. The zoning they are seeking is site specific for this property. For example, parking and sewer connections must be addressed.

The hope is that in nine months a City Council decision will be made. Then in January 2014 work would start on working drawings.

The construction would take 14 to 16 months.

They’re looking at 2016 for completion of construction. There was a reference to proceeding after 80% of the units have been sold. Before building begins, however, zoning bylaws would need to be addressed through the municipal planning process.

Life Lease

The units will be sold through a Life Lease contract. It was noted that there are about 140 Life Lease buildings in Ontario, in some cases buildings that also provide Long Term Care.

The Life Lease model involves a community-based organization run by a nonprofit group. It’s usually a church that owns the land.

A question was asked about archaeology.

It’s been confirmed there are no indications of aboriginal settlements or a cemetery on the land.

Design update

A design update from Roberts Reimers followed. He showed a slide depicting a massing model. The white areas in the display referred to existing features. The brown areas referred to proposed new additions.

The design concept involves the addition of a third and fourth floor. There would be a new addition built over the parking lot, with the result that the building would extend closer to the property line on the north side.

The ground floor is planned for community use purposes. The original entrance through the bell tower was closed off during the 1950s construction and two windows were installed. The original main entrance would become the main entrance again.

There is room for a kitchen, a small lounge, and some offices including an office for the church minister. There would be double doors opening out to Mimico Street.

There would be a slight slope down to the sidewalk, so that rain flows away from the building.

There was no distance there for a ramp. There are some stairs. A walkway through the garden would provide wheelchair accessibility to the new front door of the church.

There would be a community garden.

It was noted that on the Mimico Avenue side of the building, a limb from one of the trees had fallen to the front yard. The tree is not balanced; the centre of it has decayed. The city may require removal of the tree. The tree closer to the corner is in good shape.

An ambulatory walkway is what they’re working on with a landscape architect. The garden creates spaces – “visual rooms.”

This is not a big site. It’s defined by the existing building.

There has been a desire was to bring the church down to ground level and make it visible.

The proposed large windows on the Mimico Avenue side would enable people to see the outside from the inside, and for passersby to see the inside.

The ceiling height would 12 feet on the side facing Mimico Avenue, and higher further inside the building. It was noted that the design of the new structure on the Mimico Avenue side would mimic the pattern that’s already in place. A type of rose window is a characteristic design feature of the proposed design.

The rose window now in place would become part of the windows for the apartments.

There would be folding or sliding walls depending on the community’s requirements.

A once a week food bank and a community supper would continue, once the construction is completed.

An attempt has been made to make the design flexible. The plan is to resume activities that have been ongoing in the past.

There is a “derelict space” in the back of the building, on the west side, which would now be used.

The Mimico Avenue door would be more of a formal door for occasions such as a wedding or funeral. The doors could be opened. There would be a place outside the doors to relax in the summer.

The second floor plan was also explained. The sanctuary area would have windows bringing in light. On the second floor part of a unit would be in the bell tower.

Plans for the third and fourth floors were displayed as well.

The mechanical equipment would be offset from the side of the building. That is, as I understand, it would not be visible if you’re looking up from the street.

Basement

The basement plan was shown; it includes 25 places for parking plus some storage. There is currently mould and dampness in the basement level. This calls for excavation and waterproofing.

There would be a sump pump and proper ventilation. The basement would be devoted to the parking garage and storage space.

A garbage compactor would be installed. Things would go into three different bins depending on the type of garbage.

Question: Can you incorporate composting?

Answer: All we would need are good volunteers.

There was a diagram showing the top of the roof plan. There was a reference to permaculture.

There was a question about solar or geothermal applications at the building.

The response was that this will be looked at but the question arises: “How much are people willing to pay for their units?”

The City of Toronto has asked the design team to look at the possible green features for the building.

The current focus is on basic parameters; the green initiatives would be considered later.

With a geothermal system, the payback is 10 to 15 years. Owners generally don’t want that.

Eight years ago the design team installed solar collectors at a project. These were Hydro collectors, which pre-heat hot water for systems in the building. A grant was arranged for that. At the moment, capital grants are not widely available.

Another client group applied to the Trillium Foundation for a grant for a solar system producing electricity. That made sense for Trillium.

But all of the options are difficult. “This [property] doesn’t have a large amount of room.”

There would be a small heat pump in each apartment. There would be ducts within each apartment. The heat pumps would act as both a condenser and heat pump.

There would be individual controls in each apartment.

A typical two-bedroom suite would be about 1000 ft.². A one bedroom would have 600 ft.²

Restoring and reusing

Existing stained-glass windows would be restored during reconstruction of the building. They would be incorporated into the new energy-efficient clerestory windows of the new sanctuary, as was done at the Bethel Green Seniors Residence.

Oak wood paneling currently in place would be removed and reinstalled in a new sanctuary. An inventory is being made of the available materials. A local master carpenter would help to establish the most effective re-use of the paneling.

Half of the pews would be used as lumber, the sale of which would fund some of the wood paneling work.

It was noted that the back of the seats for the oak pews are solid oak. Large oak pieces of this size are rare. There generally aren’t oak trees that size around any more. The seats of the pews are laminate. Pews, doors, frames, and furniture would be reused where possible.

A question was asked: Will the doors and window panels be reused? The answer was that in some cases their reuse would not meet fire regulations.

It was noted that guest rooms are unlikely as this is a fairly tight space.

The new addition would be in a stone similar to what’s there now. It’s a form of manufactured stone. The first floor at Bethel Green Seniors Residence was done in this material; the next level up was in brick.

Aging in place

There was discussion of the stair design of the interior promenade; “lighting for older eyes”; and grab bars.

The concept is that you can live in a building no matter what your age. For example, a person can consider a situation where there’s a couple, of whom one person has had a stroke. That person might need a walker or wheelchair. Often such a situation requires a nursing home, if aging in place is not available.

The aim is to meet people’s needs as the needs change.

The stairs would have a six-inch rise. The aim is to have a gentle rise on the stairs where this can be arranged. This would enable use of the stairs as indoor exercise in winter.

Sometimes a landing can be made big enough for a bench. It can be designed as part of a windowsill, to ensure that it won’t be in the way if firefighters need to enter the building. The end of a staircase can be outside, where light can come in.

Electrical plugs can be placed a little higher, switches a little lower, for easier access from a wheelchair. Indirect lighting in hallways can cut down glare.

To help residents who have macular degeneration, the floor, ceiling, and walls can be of a different colour. In that way a person can see the edge of things.

Lighting can be placed over the counter in kitchens. In that way you don’t have a central light that causes you to work in shadow.

Grab bars

Grab bars instead of regular towel bars would be installed in bathrooms. A strong grab bar makes a good towel bar. If you slip, the grab bar will hold. There would be grab bars in the shower area also. The bathroom would be a usable space for everybody.

Wheelchair accessibility

It was noted that when government funding is involved, five percent of units must be wheelchair accessible. The bathroom in such a unit is 25% larger than usual.

Robert Reimers remarked he’s done 50 senior apartment buildings, with disabled units in all of them. But building managers sometimes ask to have counters moved back up to a regular height – because if you’re not disabled, a low counter is awkward. You can have a counter that moves up and down but that’s expensive.

Green initiatives

There was a reference to addressing an urban heat island effect at grade through a combination of shading and light-coloured materials for 50% of hard surfaces.

There was a reference to reduction of air leakage to less than 2.0 square inches per 100 square feet, and the use of Energy Star heating and cooling systems, appliances, and lighting fixtures.

Rainwater harvesting – its reuse for irrigation and toilets – was also discussed. A question was asked as well about graywater.

Expressions of interest

Forms are available. By April 8, 2013, nine people have expressed interest and paid a $100 deposit.

Heritage preservation; heritage attributes

Robert Martindale noted that the property is heritage listed. A heritage impact assessment has been submitted.

An heritage professional at the City of Toronto has indicated in an initial discussion that the current design proposal does not complement the heritage attributes of the church building. The Etobicoke Heritage Society has asserted that in its view the design proposal does complement the building’s heritage attributes.

Mr. Martindale commented that heritage can be seen as larger than bricks and mortar.

He added that the building will be heritage designated. It was noted that heritage designation after the approvals process is completed would be the preferred option, from the perspective of the Wesley Mimico redevelopment team.

Zoning

A question was asked regarding the current zoning for the property. The answer was: R3, which allows for a variety of uses. A proposal to change the zoning has not been advanced.

A context plan was done. There are some two and three-story buildings in the area.

Timing of application; funding sources

It was noted that the timing of the recently completed application to the City of Toronto was critical.

The application got in before the relevant bylaw was amended. Extensive work was involved in getting the application organized. Robert Reimers, Deirdre Gibson, and Robert Martindale coordinated the application process.

The scope and detail of the current redevelopment proposal has been established. A next topic concerns how to determine the sources of income.

Two proposed governing bodies were outlined in a handout distributed at the meeting. The first is concerned with project development. The second is concerned with the program-related aspects.

Grants that are being sought were outlined in a handout distributed at the meeting. Capital cost grants involve large sums of money. Specific project grants are aimed at things such as the wood reuse project.

A loan and community investment item was described, amounting to $200,000. This, as I understand from my notes, are for the rezoning application.

For construction financing, one would go to a financial institution.

An investment vehicle was described, in which people invest in their own community. You get your money back, slowly. The Centre for Social Innovation was described as an example.

There was discussion of a small loans program operated by a church credit union. Sometimes a small grant is given out as a gift for which a tax credit is received in exchange.

There was discussion about development of a website aimed at the sharing of information related to the redevelopment. There was discussion of the building of a fundraising capability.

Life Lease

Life Lease was described as the single most important part of the financing.

Discussions have been under way with community organizations that might share in the community space. They would have control of the community space 50% of the time. The sanctuary space would be leased in perpetuity by the church.

Some people are looking through church archival records, with the aim of reaching out to former members and offspring with past connections with the congregation.

It was noted that a person might want to fund a particular room, e.g. “The doors were funded by …. “

The overall budget is in the range of $15-million.

It was noted that donation of time is also a consideration. By way of example, John English Junior Middle School has an eco program; there are also gardening clubs.

 

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