The work on a new community space in the heart of the Beach is moving along and expected to be complete by summer.
The reconstruction of Beach United Church, which began last February, is entering its final stage and when it’s complete the congregation will not only have a new place to worship, but the community will also have a newly renovated space available to them.
Karen Watson, the project lead, said the project was designed to not just host weekly church services.
“We’re making this space multi-purpose,” she said. “When you look at the sanctuary, it’s a room that can be used for more than worship once a week.”
The sanctuary won’t have fixed seating so it can be arranged to suit a variety of needs and the meeting space downstairs will have flexible walls that can be moved to accommodate different uses.
This is one of the aspects the congregation is most looking forward to with the completion of the project, said Abigail Johnson, one of the church’s ministers.
“The principal thing is the excitement about what this building can provide to the Beach community at large,” she said.
The reconstruction is the first major project of the amalgamated Beach United Church congregation, which was formed after Kew Beach United and Bellefair United came together about five years ago. While the two congregations have been together since before work began on the reconstruction project, it’s a nice opportunity for the amalgamated congregation to build a space that is truly theirs, said Watson.
Originally, the project was to be completed by Easter, but as often happens with construction, the usual delays means the congregation should be back on Wineva Avenue sometime this summer.
“We’re getting close,” Watson said. “We expect we’ll be in the building after the end of June.”
Since November 2011, the congregation has been meeting in a space at St. Aidan’s Anglican Church on Silverbirch Avenue.
The reconstruction project has seen the southern extension – built to accommodate a growing Sunday school population in the 1950s – removed. This allows the original 1917 structure to be more visible from Queen Street, including its four large windows (a fifth has been added during construction) that will allow light to flood the sanctuary.
There isn’t yet a plan for the vacant lot that now stands to the south of the church, but rumours of it being sold for a condo development are not true. Watson said they want to get through with the reconstruction project before they move on to something else.
Another noticeable change of the reconstruction is the hill that made the church appear perched above Wineva Avenue has been levelled and the front entrance will now be located on street level, which makes the church both esthetically more welcoming and more physically accessible.
The removal of the large addition reduces the footprint of the church, both physically and environmentally – a deliberate decision on the part of the eco-conscious congregation.
“Part of our thinking and part of our belief is that we need to protect the earth and the environment,” Watson said.
The new windows, new systems and metal roof were also environmental choices; the roof will allow for the installation of solar panels in the future.
The main floor will also feature a new commercial grade kitchen that can be used to enhance the work the church does in the community.
“A lot of the work we do and want to do in the community is around food,” Watson said.
She is one of a group of volunteers who have worked for three years to bring this project to fruition.
“If it weren’t for people like Karen and all the volunteers, a project like this wouldn’t be possible,” Johnson said.
Watson, Johnson, and everyone in the congregation are looking forward to coming home.
“It’s really satisfying to feel we’re so close to the end,” Watson said.
The plan is to hold a celebration in fall to officially mark the end of the reconstruction.
For now, construction continues and the church is looking to partner with groups and organizations in the community that might be interested in using the space. For more information, visit http://beachhomeproject.blogspot.ca/