258 properties up for heritage listing
Massive effort underway to preserve Midtown main streets
First it was the old Stollerys building at Yonge Street and Bloor Street. Then the former Bank of Montreal at Yonge and Roselawn Avenue. Local residents and city staff have felt blindsided time and time again as century-old buildings are bulldozed to the ground without ample notice. Now, City of Toronto, Heritage Preservation Services (HPS) has put a whopping 258 properties up for listing on the city’s heritage register — the most ambitious undertaking to date — and they’re not done.
The extensive list was reviewed by the Toronto Preservation Board on Aug. 24 and will head to Toronto City Council in September. It includes properties on Yonge Street, Eglinton Avenue East and West, Mount Pleasant Road and Bayview Avenue.
According to Tamara Anson-Cartwright, program manager with HPS, the city began documenting properties with heritage value back in 2015 when they hired a consultant as part of the Midtown in Focus study. Since then, HPS has gone over the findings and held consultations with the public.
“There are quite a few properties we’ve already designated or did as individual listings, such as the Capitol Theatre and Orange Hall,” said Anson-Cartwright. “Some properties were done more recently: in July, the Restoration Hardware and adjacent property.”
The Mount Pleasant and Regent theatres were also designated during the process.
The current list of 258 properties singles out two- to three-storey buildings that fit into a kind of main street typology.
“It is about main street. It’s about contextual value, and we heard loud and clear, when we were doing our community consultation, these ideas of these Midtown villages — these sort of character areas like Mount Pleasant and Bayview,” she said.
Toronto developer Brad Lamb called the move “very suspicious.”
“All of this is just a huge effort to dramatically stop development. I think they want to stop it on a dime,” said Lamb.
“There are going to be hundreds of appeals to this. I can tell you the designations for some of these properties are absolutely preposterous. There’s nothing historic about a large number of the designations.”
Anson-Cartwright said some of the listings were given priority in the review as current owners were about to express interest in submitting an application to redevelop the site. Or in some cases, they already had.
Moving forward, if Toronto City Council approves what heritage staff are calling a “batch listing,” property owners will have to answer to the city’s official plan and prove how they will conserve the heritage building if they choose to redevelop. The listing also means heritage staff will be given a heads up before any demolition.
“If someone does want to come in and ask for a demolition permit, they have to give 60 days’ notice, which we didn’t have for the former Bank of Montreal,” said Anson-Cartwright.
Anson-Cartwright said more properties are still up for consideration.
“This is Phase 1 of the report that we’re bringing forward. There will be others. So there are actually a few other buildings on Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue and other areas that are not part of the main street typology … some old converted residential properties that we didn’t include because they didn’t fit within this type of building,” she said.
Andy Gort, chair of the South Eglinton Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association, said the group is in support of the list.
“We have something like 20 towers that have already gone up or are in the process of going up just in our area, and there is still more coming,” said Gort. “As these Midtown buildings appear, we’re losing the main street character of Yonge Street and Bayview Avenue.”
However, Gort said he anticipates amendments will be made to the list before it is approved. “My guess is that there will be a number of corrections and changes as we go forward.”
All of this is just a huge effort to dramatically stop development. I think they want to stop it on a dime.”
The property at 2453 Yonge St. on the northeast corner of Erskine Avenue is included in the list