$4.5M church reno begins

St. Clement's made design changes to its parking lot to appease its neighbours

St. Clement’s Anglican Church officials are hoping a $4.5-million renovation now underway will help attract more parishioners to the North Toronto centre of worship.

After several years of planning the massive renovation, the Briar Hill and Duplex Aves. institution has begun phase one which includes a complete overhaul of the church sanctuary. Excavation is also underway on the west end of the property to make way for a parking lot, drop-off zone and children’s garden.

Although the 4,100-square-metre building won’t change in size, the church property is smaller now that land formerly occupied by tennis courts has been sold off to residential developers.

However, it was proposed changes to the church’s parking lot that was a major bone of contention with area residents.

At a community meeting last year, several nearby residents expressed concern about the setup of the parking lot.

Original blueprints indicated vehicular entrances and exits onto both Briar Hill and St. Clement’s Aves. Neighbours at the meeting said drivers would use it as a shortcut during the church’s off-hours.

They were also concerned about parents dropping off their children for the Early Learning Centre, the church’s largest tenant. They said they find parents parked illegally and driving dangerously, and feared that would continue as they drive into the drop-off zone.

Churchwarden Brad Faught said planners took the community’s concerns to heart during the design phase and have found what they hope is a solution to any traffic woes.

They plan to install an automated lift arm on the Briar Hill side of the lot, which will be locked down during off-hours. In addition, drivers exiting onto Briar Hill will be restricted to right turns only.

Faught noted the drop-off zone would take cars off St. Clement’s Ave. alleviating any congestion caused by church users.

“We heard loud and clear from the neighbours for potential for congestion and we’ve addressed it quite happily with our neighbours on both St. Clement’s and Briar Hill,” Faught said.

Dealing with Yonge St. shoppers who may try to park illegally at the church will require some degree of policing, Faught said, but officials have yet to work out those details.

Phase two of the project, which includes renovating several other wings of the church, is expected to be complete sometime in late 2010.

About half the money for the renovation was obtained through fundraising, while the sale of the tennis court lands and other holdings in the area paid for the rest, Faught said.

The parish hall is being used as a temporary worship space while the sanctuary’s pews are re-stained and workers rewire and install new lighting. The platform altar area is also getting a redesign to create better sightlines and easier access. Work has also begun on the main entrance off Duplex.

“We hope to be back in the main church not later than the 1st of December,” Faught said.

He noted parishioners are excited about the prospect of a gleaming new space.

“The last time the church renovated or expanded was 1959,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

About this article:

By: Karolyn Coorsh
Posted: Jul 16 2009 4:24 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto