Building Our New Home

During our renovations at 473 Oakwood Ave, we will be meeting on Sunday mornings at 10:30 at Oakwood Collegiate Institute.

Our New Home at 473 Oakwood Ave

473 Oakwood in 2021On September 19, 2021, a historic and joyous decision was made! 138 members of the First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto participated in the vote, which passed unanimously, to purchase 473 Oakwood Ave. We signed the deal a day later and  it closed on October 20, making 473 Oakwood Avenue our new congregational home!

It had taken two years to find a suitable property as our new home. The vote to accept the offer from Plaza Corp to purchase 175 was passed on June 11 2017.  That was preceded by an equally important vote on September 25, 2016 to not pursue renovating 175 and to put the building on the market for sale.

Our new congregational home will be a place where we can meet to Seek, Connect and Serve in support of our mission to build a better world. It is a building we can own, renovate and reside in, while also inviting other community members to make use of the space.

473 Oakwood Avenue is a former postal sorting station, built in the 1960s and renovated in the 2000s to become a rental property. It consists of two floors above ground and a below-ground basement. There are welcoming entrance areas on both Oakwood Avenue and Robina Avenue.

We expect to complete our move sometime in early 2025 after it is renovated to suit our needs.

We will hold in-person services during the school year at our temporary location (Oakwood Collegiate Institute, 991 St Clair Ave W) until our new home is ready. We will always hold online services on Zoom ond Youtube.

Several major transit routes provide access. Our new home, 473 Oakwood will be about a 10-minute walk from the new Oakwood Station (Eglinton line) and about 15 minutes by bus from St. Clair West (Spadina Line) or Ossington station (Bloor line).  If you’re taking the bus, it’s a 2-minute walk from the stop for the Oakwood, Rogers and Vaughan buses.

Preparing Our New Home

Following the unanimous decision in September 2021, we are on track with the renovation plans to prepare 473 Oakwood for our arrival in 2024.

On September 18, 2022, the Real Estate team led a congregational conversation (after the service) to learn about and discuss the latest cost estimates, options for funding the project, and choices to be considered. This meeting was in hybrid format (onsite and online). The following materials were provided in advance:

On September 11, 2022 after the Sunday service Karen Dunk-Green led a group of Toronto First members on a tour of the not yet renovated building.

On August 24, 2022, we passed an important milestone when we received approval from the city’s Committee of Adjustments to proceed with our plans to renovate 473 Oakwood.

On March 27, 2022, the Real Estate Steering Committee (RSC) held a congregational conversation to provide an update on the renovation project with the following reading materials provided in advance of the conversation:

Working Teams

The Real Estate Steering Committee (RSC) is coordinating the overall project and interacting with all stakeholder groups.  Committee chairs are shown in Italics.

Stakeholder groups and committees are examining specific topics so we can jointly understand our needs and examine options for solutions.

Final recommendations will be made by the Real Estate Steering Committee to the Board after weighing congregational and stakeholder inputs.

Real Estate Steering Committee (RSC)

Karen Dunk-Green, Beth Ann McFadden, David Priebe, Greg Suttor, Loo Russell, Richard Kirsh, Rev. Shawn Newton

Accessibility Advisory Committee
Kate Chung, Paul Fraser, Peter Hughes, Richard Kirsh (RSC Liaison), Guy Le Ny, Wayne Lepine, Adele Massena, Nacia Miller, Bob Sherman, Susan Vaile, Barb Wentworth, Ken Wulff

Environmental Advisory Committee
Cathy Brown, Kate Chung, Donald Cole, Linda Heron, Mike Muller, David Priebe (RSC Liaison), Leslie Solomonian, Greg Suttor, Marg Wiebe

Aesthetics Advisory Committee
Aleza Coldevin, Charlotte Durnford-Dionne, Karen Dunk-Green, Susan Low-Beer, Beth Ann McFadden (RSC Liaison), Loo Russell

Worship and Sanctuary 
Dallas Bergen, Lynn Harrison, Beth Ann McFadden (RSC Liaison), Rev. Shawn Newton, Matt Rideout

Religious Education
Angela Klassen, Loo Russell (RSC Liaison), others TBD

Kitchen and Event Services
Janine Gliener, Beth Ann McFadden (RSC Liaison), Wendy Peebles, Hope Paul, Loo Russell

Memories and Celebrations
Jennifer Beer, Margaret Bryant, Margaret Kohr, Rona Macdonald, others TBD

Admin and Operations
Sue Berlove, Matt Rideout, Loo Russell (RSC Liaison), Greg Russell,  others TBD

On The Move (This group’s work is complete)
Art Brewer, Judy Clarke, Jane Larimer plus 16 functional leads and many, many members and friends doing purging, packing, selling and recycling

Our Professional Partners

A team of professionals including architects, engineers, consultants and contractors will provide expertise and deliver the project. We have the following project partners.

Dean Goodman, Jason Ruhl & Kara Burman, Levitt Goodman Architects

Construction Manager
Rodney Notte, Flat Iron Building Group

Project Manager
Tracey Sullivan, TMS Consulting

We are also working with the following professional partners as needed.

BA Consulting Group Ltd – Traffic Consultants
Entuitive – Structural Engineer
InVision – Mechanical Engineer
Miller Thomson – Tax Lawyer
Robins Appleby LLP – Real Estate Lawyer
SGL Planning – Planning and Urban Design
SVNG – Surveyors
Soberman Engineering – Elevator Consultant
UrbanX – Surveyor
Vermeulens – Cost Consultant
John Wilcox – Stained Glass Consultant
Zon Engineering – Environmental Consultant
TBD – Accessibility Consultant
TBD – Interior Designer

Our Real Estate Journey

Since our founding, First Unitarian has managed its real estate strategy to manage both our financial and our congregational sustainability:

July 1845: Founding of First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto
113 George Street, 400-seat gabled white frame building
rented first, then purchased; then sold

1852 – 1854
purchased land to build a church at Jarvis & Dundas
held services in Ontario Hall, a local courtroom, in the meantime

November 1854
moved to newly constructed 300-seat Gothic sanctuary on Jarvis St.
survived two fires; added basement in 1876; other renovations in 1878

sold Jarvis St. building as part of a Simpson’s development
purchased land on St. Clair Ave. W; renovated
from 1949 to 1951, met in the International Cinema on Yonge St

moved to new modernist building at 175 St. Clair Ave. W

1990 – 1992
renovated 175 St. Clair W; services at Deer Park United

When Shawn was called to be First’s Minister in 2007, the congregation indicated it was planning to move. Four committees have played a role in getting us here, with committee members collaborating with external consultants and with assistance and input from the congregation to work through a process of steps.

  • Property Options Task Force, 2006-07
    Chair: Richard Kirsh
    Environmental scan of decision factors; recommendation to keep studying
  • Vision & Property Task Force, 2007-08
    Chair: Nancy Lee
    Vision Statement as context for future real estate decisions
  • Building for the Future, 2012-14
    Chairs: Nancy Lee, then Karen Dunk-Green
    Property valued at $5-7 million. Developer proposals for a condo above us were deemed not financially viable or desirable. Need renovation study.
  • Real Estate Task Force, 2016 onward
    Chair: Karen Dunk-Green

2016: Renovation Assessment and Decision
Renovation costs and outcomes (including elevator improvements, more accessible washrooms, and more) deemed unaffordable and unsatisfying. In September 2016, the congregation voted to sell 175 St. Clair Ave. W.

2017 – 2019: Marketing and Selling
Sale finalized November 2018. Closing date (+extensions) December 2019
Leaseback arrangement (extended) until June 2022

2019 – 2021: The Search for a New Home
Many dozens of sites considered; 11 offers made, 6 rejected by owner, 5 withdrawn by us after due diligence.