February 13, 2015
City Centre Mirror
City offered competitive bid with money secured from development fees from other nearby sites
Faced with a dwindling congregation and a surplus of space, Manor Road United Church has decided to put the Davisville Village community first.
A couple of years ago, the church decided to sever its land and sell a portion off to help renovate its sanctuary space. Rather than automatically looking for developers to buy it up, the church is working on a deal with the City of Toronto that would see the land converted into green space.
“We could have sold the land to developers for housing for seniors, condos or townhouses,” said Manor Road United Church Reverend Debra Schneider. “Councillor (Josh) Matlow had a meeting regarding the (Manor Road) Lawn Bowling Club and we had a couple of members there. They became aware councillor Matlow had funds available for park land and we started discussions from there.”
The church, at Manor Road East and Forman Avenue, will use the money to revamp its 90-year-old sanctuary space. The funds from the city will help make the space accessible and will allow for the installation of glass partitions to help convert it into a mixed-use space that can be rented out.
“The building’s well used now with a Montessori school, Brownies, Guides, dog training, judo, karate,” Schneider said. “This will allow for more uses, and we’ll even have a couple of parking spots, which we’ve never had before.”
As part of the land sale, the church’s educational building will likely be razed and converted into parkland, a definite need in the area, particularly given the potential sale of the Glebe Manor Lawn Bowling Club to developers. While that land was not open to the public, it has long been a grassy, natural site in a neighbourhood that has a serious dearth of such spaces.
“It won’t be a big park, but this area’s in the lowest 20th percentile in terms of park land,” Schneider said.
Of course, the church did not give the land away for free. Schneider said there had been discussions with developers and the property was properly appraised. The city offered a competitive bid with money secured from development fees on other nearby sites.
“The neighbourhood is deficient in green space and that’s supported by city staff,” Matlow said. “It’s a priority for me to do everything possible to retain and protect green space for the community.”
Matlow was thankful the church was so amenable to selling its space to the city for the creation of green space and noted there were still some logistical details to be worked out.
“The last question will be whether to retain the Christian education centre as a facility for the short-term, the long-term or not at all,” he said. “At the very least, there will be a new park there.”
The councillor added there may still be a chance to retain the green space at the Glebe Manor Lawn Bowling Club site.
“I see some windows of opportunity to protect that space as well; it’s a matter of whether the new owners are going to sell at a reasonable price,” he said. “Once green space is developed, it’s gone forever.”
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