Toronto Loft Conversions

Toronto Loft Conversions

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Unique Toronto Homes

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Condos in Toronto

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Toronto Real Estate

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Swanwick Heritage Lofts – 21 Swanwick Avenue

Located on Swanwick Ave. stands a century-old church that has a sense of historic Toronto East. Built in 1893 and recognized as a heritage building in 1984, this church today has been converted into 10 unique spaces. The Heritage Lofts feature three – or even four levels – with finishes including high ceilings, original stained glass and wood details, and engineered hardwood floors. The Swanwick Heritage Lofts is an extraordinary church conversion that embraces the heritage and texture of the original 1893 Gothic Revival church.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

The Swanwick Heritage Lofts at 21 Swanwick Avenue

Originally the former Emmanuel Presbyterian Church now contains just ten multi-storey residential units. Some lofts still have the church’s original stained glass windows, as well as some original brick. The builders even saved the church’s heavy-duty wooden doors, which serve as the entrance to the unit in the steeple.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

The “steeple unit” with the original entrance doors at the left edge of the photo

Emmanuel Presbyterian Church is a representative example of a religious building with Gothic Revival styling.  Inspired by English medieval prototypes, Gothic Revival designs are recognized by the application of pointed-arches, buttresses, and varied window types. Emmanuel Presbyterian Church is a modest rendition of the style, with attention focused on the treatment of the corner tower.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

The preserved original windows give a sense of history to the lofts

The lofts have many of the benefits of a townhouse; with three or four levels of living space, street-level access and private back gardens and terraces. Each of the Swanwick Heritage Lofts has a different configuration, but all of them showcase their open-concept spaces, ceilings of more than 10 feet, multiple skylights and windows.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

Dormers and skylights provide lots of natural light

The Sanctuary model, for instance, has windows on the east and west walls, and a grand entrance landing – between the main floor and basement – with expansive glass panels and 14-foot ceilings. It is pretty unusual to find lofts with natural light on both sides.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

Not a large building, the old Emmanuel Presbyterian Church allowed the developer to create units running from side to side, providing windows at either end of the unit, flooding the lofts with natural light

In general, each loft has two or three bedrooms on the upper floors, while family rooms and laundry facilities are in the finished basements. Dens round out several plans. Main floors feature open living and dining rooms and, in most cases, kitchens with islands. The historic elements of the Swanwick Heritage Lofts contrast with the contemporary finishes, such as slab cabinetry, quartz countertops and engineered hardwood on the main and second floors, plus stainless-steel appliances.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

The modern kitchens contrast nicely with the historic elements in the Swanwick Heritage Lofts

For outdoor entertaining, terraces will have water and gas outlets, and up to 1,230 square feet of space. With grass and fencing, you would be hard pressed not to call them backyards. Also included will be outdoor surface parking. Maintenance fees are low, as there are no building amenities, but the site is surrounded by parks, community centres and sports facilities, along with supermarkets and public transit – including the subway and GO Train. Further south along the waterfront are beaches, boardwalks and the Martin Goodman Trail.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

Some of the Swanwick Heritage Lofts have actual backyards!

The Emmanuel Presbyterian Church at 21 Swanwick Avenue was listed on the City of Toronto’s Inventory of Heritage Properties in 1984 and then designated under the Ontario Heritage Act in 2007. Amazingly, the heritage designation came following an application to demolish! The city saved something for once.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

Thankfully the demolition permit was never issued!

The church is a local landmark in the East Toronto neighbourhood and provides a terminus for the view to the south end of Enderby Road. First established in 1888, the present church was built in 1893 with alterations in 1901 and 1914. Heritage attributes of the church include:
– front façade with the steeply pitched gable end facing the street
– square tower on the front  northwest corner, with tourelles  and louvered pointed arch windows
– open porch at the main entrance
– 3 pointed arch windows, surmounted by one narrow lancet window on the front façade
– buttresses, gabled wall dormers, window openings on the side facades,
– west side covered porch
– addition at the southwest end of the church
– original materials; red brick, stone, wood and metal trim

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

Strangely, the church does not show up on any of the Goad’s maps until 1924

There is a story connected to every community in Toronto. The thriving intersection of Main and Gerrard goes back over 100 years to the time when it lay at the heart of the Village of East Toronto (ever wondered why Main Street was so far east?). The busy streets of Kingston Road, Queen Street and Gerrard Street have been traveled by foot, horse and buggy – and now our busy rush hour traffic – so people can commute to and from Toronto’s east end and downtown.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

Historical Illustration from Robertson’s “Landmarks of Toronto” in 1904

In 1850, seventeen years before Confederation, a little village took root east of the new city of Toronto. The village was named “East Toronto” and covered most of what we know today as the northeast part of the Beaches as well as north to Danforth Avenue. The village was surrounded by market gardens and farmers’ fields, and was considered to be “quite a distance” from Toronto.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

The cast of a play produced by the women of East Toronto, photographed inside the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in 1908

The 1850s were important in the life and commerce of Toronto,and surrounding area, because of the arrival of the railways. All of a sudden it was possible to move large quantities of supplies and building materials to help in construction and expansion. East Toronto was no exception to the benefits brought by railways. In 1883, the Grand Trunk Railway selected farmland five and half miles east of Toronto so it could build its new, and largest railway yards.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

Aerial photograph of the area taken in 1947 – you can see the remains of the roundhouse in the upper left, with all the sidings of the Grand Trunk marshaling yards still in use

These railway yards cut short the existing Dawes Road, which originally ran from Kingston Road, past Danforth Avenue connecting to Victoria Park, and made Main Street the chief north-south roadway. The marshaling yards stretched along Gerrard Street and included seven miles of sidings (enough to hold 420 cars), coal storage facilities and a 32-stall roundhouse. A traditional-looking railway station with a long, low roof was built on the north side of the tracks, east of the new bridge that crossed over Main Street behind today’s Norwood Terrace.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

The Emmanuel Presbyterian Church junior soccer team in 1906

As construction proceeded, East Toronto grew. It was incorporated as East Toronto Village in 1888, partly through the organization of two influential landowners in the area, D.G. Stephenson and Benjamin Morton. There were about 750 people living in the village at that time. The roads were poor, made of sand except for Main Street, and its few sidewalks were made of wood.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

Imagine living in an old church tower…

Emmanuel Presbyterian Church is an institution that contributed to the historical evolution of the East Toronto community.  The development of the site dates to 1888 when a small building was constructed – and was originally called the East Toronto Presbyterian Church when first built in the 1880s. Following the merger of two Presbyterian congregations into the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, the present church was completed in 1893 under the direction of contractors McMilln and Costain. Alterations in 1901 and 1914 included an entrance porch and a large wing for the church hall and Sunday school.  With changes in local demographics, the year 1973 saw Emmanuel Presbyterian Church joining with St. James Presbyterian and St. Matthew’s Presbyterian (both established in 1925) to create the Tri-Congregations, a three-point charge served by a team ministry.  In 1988, the latter congregations amalgamated as Faith Presbyterian Church Community Church, now located in East York.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

The original East Toronto Presbyterian Church on the site sometime in the late 1880s

While the building historically was used as a place of worship, it also incorporated accessory uses such as  a daycare centre. The building had been used as a gym for the years preceding conversion. In between, it may have been the All Peoples Korean Presbyterian Church at one point. Also mentioned in “Toronto’s Many Faces” by Tony Ruprecht, that the Estonian Evangelical Church was housed in the building at one point.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

The old church as it looked in the mid-2000s before being converted

There was quite a struggle over the property. From 2007’s failed attempt at demolition through 2008’s change in direction to conservation, the City Planning Division finally approved the current plan in 2009. The Swanwick Lofts were converted by Buildcrest (who haven’t done a lot else). Designed by Bernard Watt, of course, the amazing heritage architect who does so many awesome church conversions.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

The Swanwick Heritage Lofts are all pretty big and all pretty gorgeous

The conversion to lofts involved an addition to the south side of the building and the introduction of dormers in the roof of the building. They did not attempt to dig down, so there is surface parking only, each unit has a spot.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

Not many lofts boast the outdoor space that you will find at the Swanwick Heritage Lofts

The Swanwick Heritage Lofts offers a different model of “mixed form, secular function” development. The site is located on the south side of Swanwick Avenue, surrounded on three sides by single-family detached housing and was previously occupied by a Presbyterian church. The Swanwick Heritage Lofts is a conversion project in which the entire church was preserved through redevelopment but also includes an addition.

Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue

You will find little bits of history everywhere in the Swanwick Heritage Lofts

The developer entered into a Conservation Plan with HPS to preserve the church’s masonry, some windows, and several staircases while converting the covered porch to an open walkway. The developer converted the church into 10 row houses, extended the southern part of the building, and added dormers in the church’s roof. Each unit contains obvious elements of the original church and the building still resembles a place of worship.

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Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent with Century 21 Regal Realty.
He did not write every article, some are reproduced here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.

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Summary
Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue
Article Name
Swanwick Heritage Lofts - 21 Swanwick Avenue
Description
Located on Swanwick Ave. stands a century-old church that has a sense of historic Toronto East. Built in 1893 and recognized as a heritage building in 1984, this church today has been converted into 10 unique spaces.
Author
Laurin Jeffrey - Century 21 Regal Realty