(By Karen Turner) – Developer preserves heritage convent, adding blend of new homes in heart of Westboro.

Stretched across half a city block between Edison and Melbourne avenues, Uniform Urban Developments is stitching the past to the future in its latest infill project, The Avenues of Westboro. At one point, the imposing brick convent, which sits on the 1.2-acre property, was in danger of being demolished to make room for development. Now the exterior is going to be preserved and the interior converted into a triplex. Single-family homes and semi-detached homes will also be built on the grounds, preserving a link to the past. The convent for Roman Catholic nuns, which was run by the Institut Jeanne d’Arc, has been an integral part of the community since the early 1900s. It’s here at the northwest corner of Kenwood and Edison avenues that Institut founder Mère Marie Thomas d’Aquin designed a two-and-a-half storey building in 1933 as a home for handicapped children. La Maison Jeanne d’Arc was later used as a boarding house and French-language training centre for young women moving to the city to find public service jobs. Though not an architect, Thomas d’Aquin was an accomplished painter and poet whose design inspiration for La Maison Jeanne d’Arc was the architecture of Brittany, France, where she’d spent her childhood. “It’s a mix of modern, Tudor and classical,” says Uniform general manager George Georgaras when asked to describe the architectural style of the heritage building. “She wasn’t an architect, but she travelled quite a bit. She put together a mix of styles she remembered from her travels.” To appease community concerns about preserving the landmark building and about building a development that would blend into the popular eclectic neighbourhood, architect Barry Hobin designed six semidetached houses and 11 single-family homes in an early Prairie architectural style. Large windows and earthtone stucco, stone and brick façades were teamed with a mix of flat and low hip roofs, recessed entrances and covered front balconies. “It’s clean. It’s simple lines. Westboro is so diverse, I think they will complement the neighbourhood,” says Georgaras of the streamlined designs, which have all been named after avenues in Westboro.

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