A heritage designation has caused time delays and financial setbacks for the redevelopment plans at Asbury and West United Church.
Due to a lack of funds for repairs and maintenance, the church struck a deal with Options for Homes to build an affordable housing condominium on part of their property. But issues arose when council approved an Ontario Heritage Act ruling to preserve part of the church.
“The part we have to maintain is smack in the middle of our property,” said Pauline McKenzie, chair of the church’s architecture committee, adding that the process has been frustrating. “All these changes pushed our construction costs up by a million dollars. Our original estimate was $3.6 million, and when our architect finished with the new requirements, we were over $5 million. Since then, we had to scale back and scale back to get it down closer to $4 million again.”
In addition to adjusting their plans, which had called for a brand new church building and would have better fit their size requirements, the designation also meant that fewer units would be built in the condominium.
David Nitkin, president of the Bathurst-Lawrence Four Quadrants Neighbourhood Alliance, said roughly 175 residents have voiced concerns because the changes didn’t serve the community.
“This caused not a small amount of upset on the part of the community because the plan became compromised, not for church reasons, but rather to satisfy a planning requirement,” he said, adding that the designation was, oddly enough, for a portion of the building dating back to 1958, not the oldest portion built in 1899. “They were upset with the previous councillor [Howard Moscoe] and the planning staff for putting in place rules that didn’t seem to be sensitive to the community’s needs.”
Options for Homes is currently working through several planning conditions so they can present a settlement agreement to the Ontario Municipal Board by February, in order to speed up the process.