Bellefair Church gets facelift

Ever since the big sign went up on the side of the former Bellefair United Church, area residents have been taking a good look a how the redevelopment of this venerable structure will change Queen Street.

If all goes according to schedule, by October, 2012, the owners of 23 condos and six townhouses will be moving in to their brand new homes. And while the changes to the inside will be nothing short of radical, the outside of the building will remain quite familiar.

Father and son team, Shelley and Shane Fenton of Reserve Properties, were selected by the Beach United Church from 10 other bidders because their vision included maintaining the main intregrity of the old church.

Shelley said that it would have been possible to “double the density” on the site, but not without destroying the character of the facade. The development plan is to keep the existing footprint for the main church. Kerley  Hall, which sits north of the church on Bellefair, will be razed for the construction of six three-storey townhouses. The church will be converted to five storeys but many of the architectural elements will be preserved.

One of the major changes is the shift in focus of the building. The church always had its major entrance on Bellefair, leaving a “blank space” on that portion of Queen. The  redevelopment calls for retail shops on the first floor looking out onto Queen, intigrating the building into the streetscape.

The units range in size from 600 to 2,000 sq. ft. and in price from $350,000 to $1.1 million.
I conducted a small and very unscientific survey to find out how area residents felt about the proposed redevelopment, and most people I spoke to either liked the proposal or thought that it was the only way to retain any  portion of the building. Ron Fitton, who sat on the Beach United Church committee which selected Reserve, said that church members have given the proposal mixed reviews, but believes that, once the development goes forward, people will accept the inevitable and move forward.

Fitton noted that Beach United will also be undergoing major changes to the building on Wineva. He said that the church has engaged an architect and hopes to have the design proposal before the congregation soon.

Some people do love the Bellefair redevelopment, enough that many of the units are already spoken for. Shelley Fenton must be delighted. “This is more expensive than constructing a whole new building.”

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