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Tag Archives: bloor st

Praise the loft

Windmill Developments plans to convert a red-brick, Neo-Gothic church at Perth Ave and Wallace Ave. into a condo that it has christened Union Lofts.

Ryan Starr – Toronto Star

Developer Alex Speigel strolls to the back of the vacant Perth Ave. church building and sits down in front of a massive old pipe organ. He pauses for a moment and then lays his hands on the keyboard, producing a few pleasant chords and a bluesy passage that resonates delightfully throughout the defunct house of worship.

His company, Ottawa-based Windmill Developments, plans to convert the red-brick, Neo-Gothic church at the northeast corner of Perth Ave and Wallace Ave. (near Dundas St. W. and Bloor St. W.) into a condo that it has christened Union Lofts. (“Praise the loft,” the project’s brochure implores. “Prepare to be converted.”)

The church, most recently occupied by a Seventh Day Adventist congregation, was designed by George Miller (of Gladstone Hotel fame) and built in 1913.

The old organ, manufactured in 1924 by Quebec’s Casavant Frères, a company that’s still around, sounds divine. But finding someone to take the impressive instrument — with 849 pipes, some which reach as high as 25 feet — off Windmill’s hands is proving to be a major challenge.

“We’re trying to find a home for it,” explains Speigel, the company’s Toronto-based managing partner, on a recent tour of the church building, which currently serves as the Union Lofts sales centre. “We’ve contacted all kinds of churches and theatres.”

So far, though, no takers.

Union Lofts - 243 Perth Ave

Union Lofts – 243 Perth Ave

Fortunately Windmill hasn’t had as tough a time generating interest in Union Lofts.

Suites range from 550-square-foot one-bedroom units to 1,200-square-foot two-bedroom-plus den lofts. Prices start at $249,900 and go to $629,900.

The project, designed by Caricari Lee Architects, will comprise two sections.

The original church building will be preserved and reconfigured to house 24 units, each of them with unique layouts owing to the shape of the existing structure. The top floors will have two-storey townhouse-like units.

“It’s like building a building within a building,” Speigel explains. “It’s pretty complex. We have to add floors and use all the existing building openings, because (the city’s heritage preservation department) is concerned with keeping the look of the building.

“So the entire shell is being restored, and we’re also building up and into the roof.”

Indeed, one of the top-floor lofts will extend up into a large church turret.

“Units in the existing building will be kind of like a Rubik’s Cube,” Speigel says. “They go up and over the other, and they interlock.

“The church units are all quirky,” he adds. “And people really like that.”

Next door, where the church parking lot currently sits, a new 15-unit building — the Vestry — will be built, with four condos per floor.

The new addition will have brick that matches the church, but it will have a distinctly modern design, Speigel stresses. “When you mimic the old, it sort of cheapens it in a way. You want to see clearly what’s old and what’s new.

“So (the new building is) clearly of our time and the church is clearly of another time. But the materials and massing are sympathetic.”

Union Lofts’ open floor plans maximize natural daylight, with a sliding door system that enables efficient use of open spaces.

Suites at Union Lofts will have a private patio, terrace, balcony or Juliette balcony, with water hose bibs on the patios and terraces.

Kitchens come with custom Scavolini cabinetry, islands and Caeserstone countertops.

Speigel, previously director of development for Context Development, has been involved with several Toronto conversion condo projects in the past, including The Loretto, Tip Top Lofts and Kensington Lofts.

“It’s never the same thing twice,” he says. “That’s the good thing and the bad thing about them. It makes it very interesting but you just never know what you’re in for.”

“A lot of developers don’t like to do conversions,” he adds. “They would rather just tear down and build new. It’s simpler and there’s less risk involved.

“But for me it’s the challenge of working with an existing building and it’s just great to save and preserve them.”

Speaking of saving, one can only pray that the great old church organ finds a new congregation.

“Whether we find a home for it in a church is to be determined,” Speigel cautions. “It’ll be expensive to take apart, and most churches have an electronic organ now; they don’t have the room or the design for this much space.

“Still,” he says after noodling on the instrument for a few moments, “it’s quite fantastic.”


Windmill Developments, which claims to be “Canada’s greenest developer,” is targeting LEED Platinum certification for Union Lofts.

All of Windmill’s past projects have achieved LEED Platinum, the top level of the system for measuring green buildings.

Preserving and re-using the existing church building will do much to help in this effort.

“You’re not sending all this material to landfill,” says Speigel. “It’s still got all the embodied energy that was in it.”

There will be a geothermal heating/cooling system installed under Union Loft’s new Vestry building.

Each unit at Union Lofts will have double-glazed argon-filled windows with low-e coatings, and come equipped with an ERV (energy recovery ventilator) system. An ERV supplies fresh air directly to individual suites, heating and cooling it using energy drawn from the outgoing air.

Appliances at Union Lofts are all Energy Star, including a stackable washer and dryer – and the suites come with Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood flooring in the main living areas and bedrooms.

Union Lofts

Location: 243 Perth Ave.
Developer: Windmill Developments Group,
Architect: Caricari Lee Architects,
Size: 4 storeys; 2 buildings
Units: 40 units; 550 sq. ft. to 1,200 sq. ft.
Price: $249,900 to $629,900

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

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto Realtor with Century 21 Regal Realty. He did not
write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who are
interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.