Toronto Scientology location boarded up as controversial organization plans renovation

The Toronto Star/January 25, 2013

It's a strange question to scrawl on boarded-up windows - "Tom Cruise where you at?" - but this isn't your average empty building.

The Church of Scientology's Toronto headquarters at 696 Yonge St. were shuttered last week, the windows and doors covered in plywood and its large signs covered with paper.

But there's no need for Cruise - the church's most prominent member - to swoop in, jump on couches and save the day just yet; the controversial church is not closing up shop.

In the works instead is a spiffy renovation for the worn eight-storey structure the church has inhabited since 1979. A city spokesperson said the organization submitted an application for interior demolition work on Jan. 15.

The inside is being completely remodelled, said Erin Banks, spokesperson for Church of Scientology International, in an email to the Star.

"We have very specific space plan requirements that we follow for all of our Churches," including a chapel, a café and "dozens of rooms for Scientology spiritual counseling called auditing."

A floor plan on display at the church's temporary location at 77 Peter St. shows the second floor will have a public theatre, bookstore, and a large "testing centre."

On the main floor, visitors will be able to walk around and watch "500 films that are available right at the touch of a button," Banks said.

The church also plans a major exterior makeover, including a new façade with red detailing, and large crosses facing Yonge St. and St. Mary St.

According to the church's website, the Toronto renovation is part of its "Ideal Churches of Scientology" movement, prompted by church leader David Miscavige.

Records show the building was purchased for $2 from a contractor called Plaza Investment Co. in 1979.

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