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The Martin Luther Church Building Project: Backstory and Update – by Dan Sommerfeld, Building Project Team Member, November 2023

As early as the summer of 2015, Martin Luther Evangelical Lutheran Church was pondering its future by releasing a discussion paper about long-range building options. The little mustard seed had been planted. These options included:
1. Do nothing (assuming the Church is financially sustainable);
2. Renovate/re-purpose (modernize the facilities and/or expand the child care space);
3. Demolish and re-integrate (form part of a new project development), or
4. Sell and build at a new property (considered the most expensive option).

building permit posted on door

Through the generous Altar art donation given to us in 2018, and the 2019 feasibility study for improving our Church space and expanding the Child Care, the 2020 Martin Luther Church Building Project was born. Its objective was to continue to grow the Church Ministry and preserve its ability to serve the developing area for years to come. The original proposal included a flexible and inspiring Sanctuary, Child Care program expansion, and a renovated front entrance with expanded greeting space for flexible programming. While delays due to Covid-19 and spiralling construction costs forced us to drop one of the planned expansions, the entire project would not have been possible without the incredibly generous donation from a sister Church in the U.S., as well as additional grants and timely fundraising efforts by the Child Care to cover the gaps. The following is a more detailed description of the current renovation plans:

Ground Floor Foyer

2023 Renovation Construction Nov5
hoarding set up in the foyer

The front entrance will be refreshed to include more storage space as well as an expanded foyer space complete with kitchenette. Janitorial supplies will be neatly hidden behind cabinet millwork. The former seating area will become a storage room to keep our community outreach supplies neatly tucked away. The underused coat rack area will have bin storage units to allow us to organize and sort new supplies as they arrive. There will be a new fire-rated wall and door added at the existing stairs in the foyer and in the basement. This will provide safe passage when exiting the building through the west side doors on the mid-landing. The dividing wall to the former nursery room will be demolished, providing a new and inviting area for light social gathering before and after worship. Colourful windows and a new kitchenette with cupboards, counter space, sink, and fridge will enliven this interactive space. The newly refurbished entrance area will also be independently climate-controlled allowing for improved heat and air conditioning of the space. A new coat rack will be installed just inside the Sanctuary walls, providing a more secure area to hang garments during services.

We have not forgotten about our hard-working office staff! The removal of the back exit stair to accommodate the Child Care expansion in the basement will give us more floor space. A new window will be added in this area to bring in natural sunlight and provide an observation point to an area that was formally hidden from view. The staff will be provided with an L-shaped kitchenette with cupboards, counter, and sink. This will replace some of the storage space that was lost with the demolition and it will be a great little nook for the team to stock some treats, make a cup of tea or coffee, and welcome anyone who comes in for a visit. A privacy door will also be added to keep the office secure after hours.

Basement Child Care Backroom
As with our Church, the need to serve our surrounding community was also apparent to the Child Care. Our backroom played host to many groups and events over the years, but the time had come to provide new purpose and meaning. Through careful consideration of the available square footage in the back rooms of the Church, it was determined that the expansion of a 16-child, full-day program could work with some modifications. While the current windows radiate ample light and warmth into the space, a new entrance and ramp is required. This benefits the Church by resolving a long-standing issue, providing direct access to the basement for people with mobility issues. A new child’s washroom will be added, as well as a long awaited and much anticipated storage and laundry room with washer and dryer. A commercial dishwasher has also replaced our current model in the kitchen.

Through a long-standing collaboration (since 1970) and new initiatives planned between our Church and the Child Care, we can expand our outreach into the local community. Now, more than ever, we continue to forge a path together and focus on our objectives that were outlined eight years ago. Many heartfelt thanks and immense gratitude to our staff, volunteers, benefactors, and congregational members that walk this path together. This is where our Christian faith is rooted. Our little mustard seed ‘Church-by-the-Lake’ is becoming a formidable force!

October 10, 2023 – The Project Manager has changed. Kai Herrmann is replacing Sonia Schweiger who is temporarily living in Germany for 1.5 years. We thank Sonja Schweiger for her work on this project over the past few years.

2023 Startup Construction Sep25

September 29, 2023 – The start up meeting for the construction phase of the building project took place on Monday September 25, 2023 with our president Mona Frantzke, co-vice president Jocelyn Sommerfeld, treasurer Kai Herrmann, Pastor Annika Klappert, Michael Nicholas-Schmidt our contact at Larkin Architect (, project manager from our church, Sonja Schweiger, as well as Kevin from the construction company DASD Contracting, building committee member and maintenance leader Dan Sommerfeld, and the Martin Luther Child Care executive director Cathy O’Toole. The purpose of this meeting was to present the scope and schedule of the work for the next months. Hoarding outside in the backyard for the accessibility ramp will begin on Monday October 2, 2023. We will keep you updated about the process. We expect one Sunday service in mid-October to be off site or cancelled due to a three day asbestos removal (abatement). We will confirm the date as soon as possible.

2023-10-02 Backyard Fencing


August 30, 2023 –
Last November 2022, a Town Hall meeting was held to vote on the scope of the church renovation, and it was confirmed that a new Child Care program room in the basement and improvements to the foyer would be made. The aim of the project was to aid the church mission to serve the community, increase our rental income and opportuninities for partnerships, as well as create more flexible meeting space for church programs during the week. After almost a year of further design and engineering investigations, a final drawing set was issued to three contractors for bids.

Although the bids were higher than anticipated, some miracle funding sourced from the City of Toronto by the Martin Luther Child Care made it possible to fund the project without requiring additional donations from the congregation. With careful consideration of the future of the church and current finances, the Church Council voted on the recommendation of the Building Project Committee to move forward with construction. On August 23 a letter of intent was sent to the contractor; work will commence before October 1, 2023 and is intended to continue into the spring. Thank you to the hardworking Building Project Committee for their effort and expertise and to the Council for their analysis and leadership in getting this long-awaited project to the construction phase. We pray for smooth sailing through this next chapter and have faith that the renovation will help our church to carry out its mission now and into the future! More information will be shared when scheduling details become available.
-Sonja Schweiger, Project Manager, Nov 2019 to Oct 9, 2023



April 1, 1023  – On the Agenda at our Annual General Meeting on February 26, 2023 was an update from the Building Project Committee which everyone was eager to see. Click here to view the presentation slides: [PDF]  Presented by Dan sommerfeld in place of Sonja Schweiger.

1. Progress since AGM on May 15, 2022
– Geotechnical investigation has been completed
– Hazardous materials investigation has been completed
– Daycare program drawings completed and submitted to the Ontario Ministry of Education
– New foyer scope design underway
– Permit drawings underway

2. Updated Timeline
Coordination Continuation – COMPLETION BY END OF FEBRUARY 2023
– AGM Presentation on February 26, 2023
– Congregation input on foyer design by March 2, 2023
– Committee to finalize scope of work in foyer and office vestibule
Ontario Ministry of Education Approval – SUBMITTED

After Ontario Ministry of Education Approval:

Construction phasing plan – END OF APRIL/MAY 2023
Construction start – BEGINNING OF JUNE 2023

3. Design Input

Revised front entrance proposal

– A new proposal to make the side exit into a fire exit would save between $50-60,000 on the back exterior exit stair
– An updated foyer design was introduced, including storage units, new heating/cooling units, and a kitchenette

Save 50,000 – Get rid of door mid-stair – More display space

Less doors – Change to symmetry

Renewal of the foyer was deemed important by church groups and event planners to include tables and chairs, a kitchenette, information displays, and storage areas

• Clean and tidy • Aesthetically pleasing • Permanent seating • Coat storage • Plaque display • Information display

Groups and circles
• Tables and chairs • Materials storage for activities • Available washroom • Kitchenette and materials for food, snacks, coffee and tea • Information display

Mission (bowls and blessings)
• Kitchenette for food storage and easier soup service • Storage for food and clothing donation items • Table, chair, and tent storage • Information display to outside

Worship and events
• Kitchenette for coffee hour • Flexible seating • Extension to the outside • Available washroom • Table and chair for sign in/distribution/sales etc.

Partners and renters
• Tables and chairs • Available washroom • Available kitchenette

• Preserve existing elements (ex. Fire alarm) • Proper heating and cooling • Sign, shovel, gardening storage

– Foyer discussion topics included: What is most important to you? What do we need to store and display? What elements need to be permanent, or flexible? What appliances are needed in the kitchenette? ***The Building Committee will also consider existing conditions, budget and balancing needs

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

Was the renovation of the sanctuary itself postponed to next year?
No, this is deferred indefinitely. Due to the inflation of labour and materials costs, as well as the results of our engineering investigations increasing the cost of the project, the sanctuary proposal is no longer in the budget. We are not fundraising actively due to the general state of our church finances, so the 700,000 we have are being used to complete the daycare room and foyer renovations.

Could you remind me why it is not possible to install an accessible washroom in the foyer?
There is no space for an accessible washroom and the appropriate plumbing in the foyer. We did look into adding a non-accessible single stall washroom as well, but this is no longer possible with our budget.

The existing washroom downstairs is not really accessible, e.g. the door can’t be opened by someone in a wheelchair by pushing a button.
This is true. We can look into installing the proper door.

If the new coat rack is put across from the elevator exit as it looks in the drawings, would that not be in the way when people exit the elevator?
Our updated foyer drawings has moved coat storage into the sanctuary.

Would we still be able to use the kitchen downstairs or do we need to move everything in the upstairs kitchen?
The kitchen downstairs is fine to use unless the daycare is in operation. The upstairs kitchenette is supplementary.

Will the windows in the nursery towards the sanctuary be kept?
In the new plan these windows will be filled with storage. This will also be better for sound isolation between the two spaces. Since there is no more nursery here there is no need for people to watch the service from outside the sanctuary.

With regards to the fire exits, my main concern is what if the way to the new fire exit in the front is blocked due to a fire?
Would we have enough time to evacuate the sanctuary/daycare through one back exit only?
As per code, this exiting strategy is considered safe, and I defer to the code and the architects on this decision.

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