The church building that became Bloor Street United Church opened around 1890 and has continued to serve downtown Toronto through numerous renovations and expansions.
Much of the building was recently dismantled, but the church will rise again, integrated into the 29-storey, 284-unit Cielo Condos as part of a collaboration between the church and Toronto property developers Northrop Development Corporation and Collecdev Inc.
As part of the redevelopment, some of the more recent additions to the church will be removed, restoring it to its earlier historic form.
Likewise, George C. Pidgeon House, a historic home once occupied by the church minister after which it’s named, will also be returned to its 1888 footprint.
Heritage consultant Toronto’s ERA Architects is overseeing the historic aspects of the deconstruction and restoration of the buildings.
KPMB Architects is designing the condominium project and reintegrating the church structure with the new development.
The careful site demolition was undertaken by ORIN Demolition, beginning in early 2022 with asbestos removal.
The church’s west wing is not part of the historic preservation and will be replaced by a four-floor administrative building designated for use by the United Church of Canada.
“The biggest challenges involved the roof separation, due to the range of roof shapes and heights,” says Joe Neiva, director of operations with ORIN. “This required the use of a 50-foot zoom boom and other specialty lifts.”
The contractor’s priority was to preserve the exterior of the building, with special attention to doors and stained glass windows.
“We brought in a couple of spider lifts, but much of the interior demolition was careful manual work,” Neiva says.
BRC Group worked to shore up the two exterior walls which would stand during condominium construction, allowing ORIN to finish the interior job using a high-reach excavator. Interior demolition progressed quickly, taking about two days.
All exterior stonework removed during the demolition, including 25,000 bricks and ornate arches, was catalogued and numbered, placed on skids and moved to storage. Any stonework not required for reconstruction is being considered for incorporation into the landscaping of the condo site.
Additional saw cutting of the foundation allowed ORIN’s sister company, RONI Excavation, to begin excavating the site.
ORIN also demolished the addition to the rear of Pidgeon house, underpinned the foundation to about eight feet matching basement level, then underpinned the site by another eight feet to prepare it for steel frame retention.
At its peak, the job required about a dozen workers.
Neiva notes that on many demolition jobs, people approach workers on the site asking for souvenir bricks.
“With this job, not as many,” he says. “I think that’s because people were really happy knowing that the church is going to be rebuilt.”
Bloor Street United Church members are currently sharing worship facilities at a neighbouring church and expect to move back to their home church in 2025. Cielo Condos is slated to open for residents in early 2026.