In the early 20th century, Toronto earned itself a nickname: Toronto the Good, a title that was bestowed upon the city based on its conservative laws and predominantly Protestant upper classes, a place known for its stiff morality and for shutting down on Sundays. A legacy of this era is the abundance of old churches scattered across the city, many built at a time when a large portion of the population were regular attendees. But as Toronto shed some righteousness in the latter half of the century, the role of the church in society declined, and many such properties in prime locations are gradually being converted to other uses, mainly residential, either through demolition or renovation.

The trend continues to this day, but more recently, some congregations have been taking a different approach to adapt and change with the times, embracing the housing boom and using it to secure their future within the community. A growing number of churches and places of worship are seeking to redevelop their properties by adding residential density while maintaining the presence of their congregation on the site, often getting new facilities in return while receiving financial security for the foreseeable future. Recent examples include the Bloor Street United Church at 300 Bloor West, and the Weston Park Baptist Church at Lawrence and Weston.

Rendering looking west toward 355 Sherbourne, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Now, another church property is joining the redevelopment trend, with St Luke's United Church at the corner of Sherbourne and Carlton streets proposing to add residential density to their historic property. Located directly across from Allan Gardens at 355 Sherbourne Street, the proposal seeks to add a 12-storey residential mid-rise alongside the existing church, containing 100 residential units. St Luke's United Church is partnering with the United Property Resource Corporation for the redevelopment, and they have enlisted KPMB Architects to design the building, with ERA Architects overseeing the heritage components.

Site plan, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Some significant modifications are proposed to the existing church building, which was originally constructed in 1887. The southern gymnasium addition, built in 1962, and the western narthex, built in 1929, are both proposed to be demolished, returning the church to its original footprint. The eastern Sunday School addition, built in 1912, would be partially preserved, but its interiors would be heavily modified to accommodate the main lobby of the new residential tower. The interiors of the original 1887 portion would also be renovated to provide modernized facilities for the church, while also making it more accessible.

North elevation, image via submission to the City of Toronto

A new main entrance to the church would be added by KPMB, to infill where the narthex will be demolished on the west facade. The removal of the narthex also allows for a new plaza in front of the church, which will add a significant new public space to the corner of Sherbourne and Carlton.

Rendering of new plaza at corner of Sherbourne and Carlton, image via submission to the City of Toronto

The new residential tower wraps around the existing church with an L-shaped footprint, stretching along the south and east boundaries of the property. The base of the new building contains several multi-functional community spaces for St Luke's, as well as complementary service and administrative spaces. A cafe is also proposed at the southwest corner of the site on the ground floor. While ample space is provided for the church in the new building, it does not appear that a new gymnasium is provided to replace the current one that would be demolished.

Ground floor plan, image via submission to the City of Toronto

A total of 100 units are provided in the building, 30% of which would be affordable rental units and 70% of would will be market rental. The unit breakdown includes 14 studios (14%), 43 one-bedrooms (43%), 23 two-bedrooms (23%), and 20 three-bedrooms (20%). Interestingly enough, the southern leg of the building is quite narrow, so the design includes two-storey units, meaning every other floor does not have a public corridor, and the units have windows on at least two sides.

Rendering of cafe and plaza along Sherbourne, image via submission to the City of Toronto

The massing and architectural expression of the building are quite simple, with a slightly skewed rectangular volume atop the base, and a gridded pattern of punched-in windows on all facades. As this is a rezoning submission, the finishes and expression of the new building are subject to change.

Rendering of west elevation along Sherbourne, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Also noteworthy is the fact that no vehicular parking is proposed on the property, with the building extending only one-and-a-half storeys below grade. A total of 148 bicycle parking spaces are provided on the basement level and ground floor.

Rendering looking west along Carlton, image via submission to the City of Toronto

We will keep you updated as the redevelopment of 355 Sherbourne Street makes its way through the planning process, but in the meantime additional information and images can be found in our Database file for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment below.

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