Completed in 2004, The Glebe is a fabulous loft conversion of the architecturally magnificent Riverdale Presbyterian Church, located at 660 Pape Avenue, in prime Riverdale and just steps from the subway.
Very rarely does an opportunity come along to live in history. Designed by renowned period architect John Wilson Gray, this imposing architectural building is now retrofitted, entirely within the existing envelope, into only 32 astonishing multi-level loft residences.
(N.B. John Wilson Gray passed shortly after completion of the church addition, it was his last project. Interestingly enough, he had designed two other Presbyterian churches before this – St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church and Bathurst Street and Barton Avenue, and the better-known Knox Presbyterian Church on Spadina Road near Harbord Street.)
Erected in 1921-22 as an expansion of the original 1907 Riverdale Presbyterian Church, this loft conversion pays homage to the soaring height of the original sanctuary in all of its two storey primary living spaces, featuring large open plans that flow with the building space.
Each loft was designed to optimize the dramatic effects of light and spatial volume. They incorporate solid masonry walls, new windows, superior thermal and acoustical insulation, individual high efficiency heating systems, all new electrical and mechanical systems – plus a host of luxury features.
The Gothic revival building featured high ceilings and exposed steel trusses. In the third storey lofts, the steel trusses remain exposed, providing visual interest and reminding us of the building’s original function. While that use has changed, the units benefit from the church’s spatial qualities.
Authentic lofts are unique living spaces by definition, but those in churches of architectural merit are even more exceptional. The Glebe Lofts is historic landmark that retains its brick façade and large arched windows, while the interior was divided up, for the most part, into one and two-storey lofts.
The Glebe’s life as a distinct Presbyterian entity on Pape Avenue began in a chain of events in the years 1906, 1907, and 1908. The first meeting of the exclusively Presbyterian Sunday school was held in a tent in the middle of an orchard at the corner of Pape and Harcourt Ave. on September 26, 1906. Nearly a year later, on August 4, 1907, Riverdale became an “ordained mission field” of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The original church building was dedicated on December 15, 1907, and Riverdale officially became a congregation of the PCC on January 15, 1908. The first minister, the Rev. J.A. Miller, was not inducted until September 17, 1908.
Growth in this new area of Toronto was very rapid, and the congregation quickly outgrew its original building, which sat 300 people and had cost $3,500 to build. In 1912 the cornerstone was laid for a new Sunday school building. This new addition, costing $23,000 and seating 700, was dedicated on May 18, 1913.
Growth continued, and within just six years, still more space was needed. On October 31, 1921, the cornerstone was laid for a new sanctuary to replace the original part of the building. This massive new sanctuary, which was dedicated on September 3, 1922, cost $125,000 to build and had seating space for 2,600 people.
The changing demographics of the north Riverdale area, however, led to a slow decline in numbers. On a positive note, many former members of Riverdale church moved out to congregations in the suburbs and continued work there. But the loss of members meant that the congregation increasingly struggled to meet the demands of upkeep on such a large church building. On June 2, 1991, the congregation held a celebration Sunday to mark the closing of the large sanctuary, and worship was moved into the Sunday school wing.
A long process of discernment followed, and eventually, the southern portion of the building was sold for development. This sale, in large part, funded the complete renovation of the old Sunday school wing, and on April 13, 2003, the renewed building was rededicated. It is from this building that the congregation continues to reach out to the Pape and Danforth community.
The Glebe Lofts were born from this series of events, with the actual lofts completed in 2004. Converted by Bob Mitchell, who is responsible for many of the famous early Toronto lofts, the 4-storey building is home to just 32 hard lofts ranging in size from around 1,000 to over 2,200 square feet. These multi-level lofts were constructed entirely in the original building with no additions to accommodate the conversion.
Most of the suites at the Glebe Lofts feature 14-foot ceilings and incorporate thermo-pane windows and skylights to take full advantage of natural light in the open plans inside. Exposed steel, hardwood flooring and most suites with terrace or balcony are just some of the features. The historical uniqueness is really the thing most likely to attract prospective loft buyers to this particular spot, as it is a true hard loft conversion in a very old building.
One of my main complaints, though, is that you almost cannot tell that you live in gorgeous old church. Sure, the units are spacious and multi-level, but they feel more like townhomes than lofts. There aren’t many original elements left inside… which kind of defeats the purpose. To create living space inside a large empty church, they needed a whole lot of drywall. But compared to The Abbey Lofts, which ooze character, I think Mitchell failed here. Mind you, most of his conversions are more like townhouses and lofts. His projects are usually multi-level and mostly drywall.
For those not familiar with Bob Mitchell, his company Mitchell & Associates is a design/build firm that has been converting old buildings throughout Toronto since the early 1980s. In 1982 they designed, developed and built the first legal loft conversion in Toronto at 41 Shanly Street, previously the Dominion Felt Company, and won the Ontario Renews Award in 1984 for that project for excellence and innovation in design.
Historical living in a neighbourhood like this is pretty rare as well. Located at 660 Pape Avenue, steps from the subway and the vibrant cosmopolitan shops, restaurants and coffee houses of the Danforth, close to the downtown and the cultural heart of the City, The Glebe Lofts offer a unique lifestyle for character, location, design features and value anywhere in Toronto.
Living in Riverdale puts you close to everything. The Chester and Pape subway stations offer easy public transport, vast green spaces like Withrow and Riverdale Parks provide nature and recreation. On The Danforth you will find boutique shops, cafes and purveyors of fresh produce dot the streets in full support of a pedestrian lifestyle. There is colour and conversation on every corner.
Located a block south of The Danforth on Pape Avenue, this exceptional loft conversion in a former church is situated in the heart of prime Riverdale. Around the corner from gyms, a couple of Starbucks and a myriad of sundry, home furnishing and fashion retailers, this dramatic loft offers a top-notch location in one of the city’s favourite neighbourhoods.