For years, churches have been popping up in industrial zones across Toronto. Old factories and warehouses are big and cheap, making them a perfect place for poorer, immigrant churches lacking the financial resources to build or buy a conventional building.
But the city is considering a zoning bylaw that would stop houses of worship from setting up in areas zoned for industrial use — sparking outrage among religious groups.
“Our places of worship provide a venue for spiritual growth, language and cultural advancement,” said Pastor David Loganathan, of the Tamil Pastors Fellowship of Canada. “Canada is a multicultural country, and many more people will be coming. I am thoroughly disappointed with the disregard shown to places of worship from this bylaw.”
[. . .]
It’s a delicate balancing act for the city: Religious groups fear the changes mean they will lose the very places they gather as a community. Meanwhile, neighbouring businesses worry that leaving things as they are may limit their operations or even force them to relocate.
The noise, dust, odour or vibrations that a factory kicks up may one day not sit well with the church next door, even if the factory has been there for years, worries Calvin Lantz, a lawyer representing the Toronto Industry Network.
[. . .]
The encroachment of places where people gather in the community is, Lantz claims, “one of the principle reasons ... why industry leaves Toronto.”
Letting houses of worship cluster around industrial zones would “be in effect creating barriers to attracting industry to Toronto,” he says.
But the congregations say they’ve been forced to look at industrial lands because of the high cost associated with buying or renting conventional church properties.
[. . .]
A City of Toronto report commissioned in 2009 shows the problem will not resolve itself. The report identified 1,260 “official” places of worship that were operating in the city in 2005, one-third of which had opened between 1995 and 2005. In 2008, no fewer than 22 per cent of Toronto’s places of worship were located in industrial areas.
I've seen plenty of churches in Toronto that have been converted from religious uses to secular ones, most frequently into condos. The earliest photo of such a conversion I took dates to August 2008 (later featuring in a January 2009 blogTO post, actually).
This is a picture of the former Centennial-Japanese United Church building at 701 Dovercourt Road, near the Ossington TTC station. Over the previous century, this building housed a series of Methodist and United Church congregations until its recent sale to a condominium developer that planned to convert the church into 28 heritage lofts.
Churches in downtown neighbourhoods are being converted from religious uses for want of members, while thoroughly secular building in formerly industrial neighbourhoods--I'm guessing outer Toronto neighbourhoods--are being converted into churches to meet an unexpected surplus. The basic religious dynamics of the core and the periphery of Toronto are altogether different.