171 Dunn Avenue and 1355 King Street West
Type: New construction and renovation
Size: 55,000 sf
Project Cost: $8.5 million
— Parkdale United Church
— Parkdale United Church Foundation
— City of Toronto
Status: Opened in 1977
Green Phoenix Apartments / Parkdale United Church is a 11-storey mixed-use project which includes aﬀordable housing and a church. There are 137 bachelor apartments, a sanctuary on the ground floor that is home to the Parkdale United Church (PUC) and other faith communities, and a church hall in the basement. The apartment building was originally called Phoenix Place Apartments. In 2002 the congregation decided to add new and larger units and carry out tower retrofit based on principles of sustainability. Renamed Green Phoenix, it intends to be a model of sustainable social housing.
Complexity / Collaboration
The PUC congregation established the Parkdale United Church Foundation (PUCF) in 1973 as a non-profit charitable organization to address rising housing costs in the community. PUC decided to build aﬀordable housing and a worship space on the site, which required demolishing the original Parkdale Methodist Church, by then considered beyond repair. The church donated its land for the project and a property adjacent to the site called Shalom House was purchased to provide the required density, setbacks and green space for construction. It originally served as as an outreach centre and was converted into 10 units of aﬀordable housing in 2006.
User Interaction / Partnership Framework
Green Phoenix forms the PUC’s housing ministry, the church’s biggest outreach project and gives priority to diﬃcult to house persons. PUCF is the owner and operator of Phoenix Place with a Board of Directors composed of nine PUC members and three members from the community. Day-to-day work is delegated to a project development team, including a Property Manager, Administrator and full-time maintenance person. PCUF reports annually to the PUC congregation. The Church Hall in the basement is available to tenants for rent at half the posted rate for private functions.
Cost / Funding
PUCF was able to secure funding through grants and fundraising and fill the gap with a $1.2 million loan provided by Infrastructure Ontario’s Loan Program, expanding
eligibility to include housing providers at a crucial time. PUC has the advantage of a very low cost of operation given that there is no large building cost or overhead and costs for utilities and maintenance are covered by PCUF. In terms of revenue, it rents the sanctuary to other faith groups, the church hall to the community, and also benefits from the commitment of many active volunteers.
The project continues to oﬀer rents that are significantly below the current market for comparable units in the neighbourhood and has never received rent-geared-to-income subsidies for its residents. With aging building components and rising utility costs, keeping rents aﬀordable will be a challenge. For PUC, a major outstanding issue is the need to increase the number of active members in the life of the church, as less people are interested in attending and members are overworked.
Councillor Gord Perks, former area MPP Cheri Di- Novo and former MP Peggy Nash were instrumental in securing various funding for recent retrofit and expansion.
Phoenix Place has excellent housing management experience with a policy of maintaining low rentsand has been described as the best run building in Parkdale. Through responsible fiscal management it generates a surplus every year which is put into a capital reserve fund. According to Rev. Shawn Lucas, president of PUCF, they are leading the way by building the greenest, eco-friendly affordable housing complex in Canada.