Monday, March 28, 2011

A walk around Christ Church

On the weekend I went for a walk with some friends through Lebreton flats and back up through the escarpment. It being such a nice day, I took some photos of Christ Church, the Anglican cathedral at the far northwest corner of Centretown that has a redevelopment proposal with Windmill Developments. There was a public meeting in December about the plans, as well as an article in the Citizen.

Here's a view of the church from the Garden of the Provinces (you'd get a similar view from the steps of Library and Archives Canada). To the right of the cathedral is Cathedral Hall, a Modernist assembly hall built in the '50s. Among other things, the plan proposes to replace this hall with townhouses at the base of a 24-storey condo tower. Behind it in the photo is one of the two sister towers of Charlesfort's The Gardens condos on Bronson at Albert and Queen. On the near side of Queen next to the cathedral (i.e. behind Cathedral Hall) is Lauder Hall, a stone-walled hall that, like the main part of the Cathedral, would be retained in the development due to its heritage value.

At a certain angle, the upward-curved roof of the Sparks Street lobby (420 Sparks) presents a perspective illusion, as though it curves toward you instead of up.

To the east of the Cathedral is a parking lot along Sparks Street, and three houses along Queen. Initially the developers planned to demolish most of these houses, keeping only their facades, but adjustments of their plans have allowed them to keep the houses. The westmost house has a wooden spiral staircase, which was featured recently on the Singing Moon photoblog. The parking lot in the foreground would have an office tower. Currently the area is not zoned for office, but the developers propose it will help balance the demands for heat, energy, and parking with the complementary hours of use between the office and church uses.

Further to the West is Roper House, the last of the lumber baron mansions on Bronson that is more or less intact. The lawns surrounding it on three sides are a rarety. For these reasons, the developers abandoned their tentative plans to move it to one side to build on the remainder, and instead is proposing to keep Roper House and its lawns intact, making the condo tower taller to make up for the 'lost' space from this decision. The field in the foreground is on the far side of Bronson and is not part of the development. The below photo is from last year's Images of Bronson photoset:

The Dalhousie Community Association and the Centretown Citizens Community Association have both submitted comments (see DCA comments here) about the develompents. Below is a site plan of the existing and proposed site as it was discussed at a DCA meeting. The little squares are rooftop solar panels:

The Citizen ran a rendering of the project in its article, from the perspective of those going by the site in a helicopter. Since that article, the developers have amended their plans to have the condo building on the near side taller, but narrower.

The church is leasing the land to the developers/condo owners for 199 years, and the upfront and ongoing revenue from that arrangement will help them make the necessary repairs to their cathedral, which they say needs $2 million in renovations. If they used the fund gained from the dwindling number of parishoners, programming would suffer, which they say would lead to a downward spiral of less programming, less use, less income. It's always a difficult balance to figure out how to maintain our heritage buildings, especially with little or no government support for maintaining them (it's hard enough to get our governments to spend enough money to maintain government heritage buildings).

The CCCA has been working to get some affordable housing built into this development. Initially, the church responded that they have programs (like Cornerstone housing for women) to provide affordable housing elsewhere, and they really need the money from this development. I'm not quite sure were discussions are at now, but I believe there has been some progress made in partnership with one or more affordable housing providers. After all, if a church won't provide affordable housing in their building, who would?


  1. I learn so much from reading your blog. I love it!

  2. Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad you enjoy it!

  3. Note: some more views of Christ Church are on one of the Rescue Bronson Avenue walking tour posters from the 2011 Jane's Walk