Special Report: Heritage

All Saints Church Demolition

Like the building itself, the promises of benefits from demolition - affordable housing, preserved features - are being stripped away.

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 25, 2016

For the past week, All Saints Anglican Church at the southeast corner of King Street West and Queen Street South has been undergoing demolition behind plywood hoarding.

Demolition of All Saints Church
Demolition of All Saints Church

The building was constructed in 1872-3 but was neglected in more recent years and has become unstable. An earthquake in 1998 damaged the bell tower, and it was removed.

The writing has been on the eramosa dolomite wall for some time. In 2012, the Ontario Municipal Board dismissed a last-ditch effort to block the zoning variances that would allow higher density on the site, clearing the way for demolition.

A new 23-storey building is planned for the site, under development by Coletara Development. It has not yet been decided whether the 200 units will be rental or condominium apartments, but there will be a new 6,000 square foot worship space within the building for the All Saints congregation.

In an unfortunate irony, the decision to demolish the church and add a new high-rise building was predicated on the need for new purpose-built affordable housing in the downtown core, but the new development will not include any affordable units.

Crane demolishing All Saints Church
Crane demolishing All Saints Church

The new space was supposed to accommodate as many heritage features as possible from the old church, but it is not clear whether it will be possible to restore the stained glass windows and incorporate them into the new church.

Like the building itself, the promises of benefits from demolition - affordable housing, preserved features - are being stripped away.

The church stones are now a pile of rubble
The church stones are now a pile of rubble

Here is a photo of how the church looked in 1875, courtesy of intrepid local historian Brian Henley:

All Saints Church in 1875
All Saints Church in 1875

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted August 25, 2016 at 08:38:30

Very sad, especially about the broken promises regarding affordable housing and incorporating heritage features. It really shows a lack of imagination on the part of the Diocese, and perhaps some disingenuousness.

They very much made the case for the demolition and reconstruction on the basis of the need for affordable housing and they were completely uninterested in any creative ways to incorporate the heritage building (even parts of it) into the new construction. This adaptive re-use is done in other cities all the time, and would likely be mandated for a building like this.

This is a prime example of why we should not believe any developer promises regarding affordable housing or heritage preservation unless these promises are legally binding. Their goal is to get what they want (i.e. demolish the heritage building). Once that's accomplishment, they'll do what they please.

I would have thought the Anglican Diocese would have higher standards and more regard for the community!

The Synod of the Diocese of Niagara and the Hamilton nonprofit corporation Options for Homes want to demolish All Saints Anglican Church on Queen Street South at King Street West to construct a 12-storey, affordable housing apartment. The main level would be used for worship and ministry by congregation members.

The town’s view is that the main level will house “commercial units”:

Options for Homes is proposing to build a 12 storey condominium on the site of the former All Saints Church property, located at 15 Queen Street South at the corner of King Street West and Queen Street South. The proposal is for 120 residential units with commercial units on the ground floor.


So, somehow, a 12 storey affordable housing complex gets transformed into a 23 storey market-based development! Talk about bait and switch.

Does anyone know whether they will at least keep their promise to have commercial on the ground floor (which would be good for the street, especially with LRT coming), or is the ground floor commercial gone too?

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted August 25, 2016 at 08:44:58 in reply to Comment 119852

the 12-storey proposal you're referring to was the 1st of 2 proposals that fell apart due to the inability to secure financing. The Diocese has worked hard for the last 6 years on various different housing models here, but couldn't secure the funds or partners necessary.

Sad to see this building go, but I"m excited that the new build will be a more appropriate 23 stories instead of 12.
Market priced condos/apartments are by far the least represented segment of real estate in this part of the city. We need dozens and dozens of new buildings like this through the downtown core if we really hope to add a balanced mix of residents and housing options downtown.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted August 25, 2016 at 09:38:55 in reply to Comment 119853

If the 23 storey building were going up on one of the dozens of parking lots downtown I'd agree with you 100%.

Why entirely demolish a 140 year old church when there are surely other options, especially as we expect churches to look beyond just the bottom line (and be clear on their communication with the local community)?

Those who were involved in attempts to save the church or parts of it, said that the message was very clear from the Diocese all along: they had no interest in any project that would involve preserving any part of the church. And the "social housing" angle was used as a strong argument: social housing would be better than an old decrepit church.

Just two years ago Diocese representatives were still suggesting publicly that they were working actively to ensure the new building would include affordable housing https://twitter.com/NiagaraAnglican/stat... ... other organizations manage to do it https://www.raisethehammer.org/article/3... why did they fail?

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-08-25 09:44:31

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted August 25, 2016 at 10:08:22 in reply to Comment 119857

you'd have to ask them that. I'm not too sure how all the prior deals fell apart. I'm simply pointing out that the only new builds that have happened along this stretch of King West in the last decade have been social housing (Strathcona Fire Hall, Good Shepherd King W).
Clean, new market rentals or condos are virtually non-existent in this area. It's either lower $ rentals, affordable homes or a select group of more expensive homes. The largest segment of the city's population from an income perspective has very little housing options here. Vranich is just wrapping up his project at Main/Bay which appears to be market priced, so perhaps we're finally going to see more options in this price point.
I much prefer mixed income communities. Not sure why our suburban communities aren't held to the same scrutiny when it comes to providing housing options for all income levels. These regions downtown have housed almost all of the affordable/social housing in the city for many decades, while all new builds in the suburbs are basically mid/high income communities to the exclusion of all others. Would be great to see Hamilton's housing activists take the message to the areas seeing the majority of housing development.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted August 25, 2016 at 10:19:13 in reply to Comment 119859

I agree that mixed income should be the goal and that there is certainly need for new market-based buildings along that stretch.

But that was not the goal the Anglican Diocese broadcast when it made the case for demolition. Providing affordable housing was used to make losing this heritage building seem acceptable ... and if it is market-based after all surely that could provide higher margins to off-set more creative high quality design adaptively re-using some of the old building.

It's the same old heritage demolition bait and switch I'm objecting to.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-08-25 10:20:07

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted August 25, 2016 at 14:38:25 in reply to Comment 119861

agreed wholeheartedly on more creative re-using some of the old building by building a market-price property. I'm not sure if that's happening or not, but looks like most of it was demo'd.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted August 25, 2016 at 09:14:01

Brian McHattie said it years ago: The city doesn't care about heritage. If I had the time I would like to submit an article about 18 West Ave S. Beautiful old parsonage used by Good Sheppard that is being sold to a non profit who is determined to demolish it. Really shameful.

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By guelphite (registered) | Posted August 25, 2016 at 14:34:09

Wonder if they'll keep the commercial space at the least..

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