The rest is his­tory

The city has to figure out a bet­ter way to pro­tect built her­itage — and fast

Bayview Post - - News - KAREN STINTZ Karen Stintz is a former city coun­cil­lor, elected in 2003, and was a chair of the TTC. She lives in Ward 16 with her fam­ily.

It is breath­tak­ing how much Toronto has changed over the last 30 years. Many ar­eas of the city are un­der rede­vel­op­ment that’s breath­ing new life into neigh­bour­hoods. How­ever, as old build­ings are de­mol­ished to make way for new growth there is a nos­tal­gia for the city’s his­tory and a worry that our past is not be­ing ad­e­quately pro­tected.

A re­cent ex­am­ple is the de­mo­li­tion of the his­toric Bank of Mon­treal build­ing at Roselawn and Yonge. With­out in­volv­ing the com­mu­nity, the de­vel­oper got a per­mit and razed the build­ing. As ex­pected, there was up­set and fin­ger point­ing.

The com­mu­nity pointed to the politi­cians who pointed to the city plan­ners who pointed to those in the build­ing de­part­ment, and those in the build­ing de­part­ment sim­ply shrugged be­cause they were just do­ing their job.

Un­for­tu­nately, the cy­cle won’t change un­til some­one at the City of Toronto starts to make it a pri­or­ity to pre­serve the city’s her­itage.

It won’t be an easy job. Pro­tect­ing her­itage build­ings is chal­leng­ing be­cause there are no clear rules that de­ter­mine when a build­ing ac­tu­ally has her­itage value.

The ab­sence of clear rules can make des­ig­na­tions very con­tentious. Once a build­ing has been des­ig­nated, there are sig­nif­i­cant re­stric­tions on what can be changed or al­tered, even to the point of what ma­te­ri­als need to be used. Res­i­dents also do not help their own cause when their in­ter­est in pro­tect­ing his­toric build­ings is mixed to­gether with a de­sire to slow the pace of change.

Then there are the mis­placed ef­forts to high­light Toronto’s his­tory by des­ig­nat­ing build­ings as her­itage when they are sim­ply of­fices where in­no­va­tion took flight. One ex­am­ple was the spir­ited de­bate over whether or not the Bata build­ing on Wyn­ford Drive should be de­mol­ished to per­mit the con­struc­tion of the Aga Khan Mu­seum. At the con­clu­sion of the de­bate, there was no ques­tion that a fas­ci­nat­ing part of the city’s his­tory oc­curred in that of­fice build­ing, but that didn’t make the build­ing a her­itage site.

There was a sim­i­lar de­bate when Ry­er­son bought the Sam the Record Man build­ing. Just be­cause records are nos­tal­gic doesn’t mean the build­ing should be saved. The same can be ar­gued for the Stollerys build­ing at the cor­ner of Yonge and Bloor.

How­ever, some­times it is ob­vi­ous that a build­ing should be pro­tected, and those build­ings don’t need to be des­ig­nated for de­vel­op­ers to re­spect the her­itage value of the build­ing.

The re­ten­tion of the ex­te­rior of Postal Sta­tion K at Yonge and Mont­gomery is a great ex­am­ple of an en­light­ened de­vel­oper work­ing with the city and the com­mu­nity to re­de­velop and pre­serve the her­itage of a site.

The city needs to be thought­ful about what should be pro­tected and what im­por­tant sto­ries should be told to the res­i­dents of Toronto, not just about the build­ings, but also about the peo­ple that worked, lived or played in those build­ings.

His­toric Postal Sta­tion K was the lo­ca­tion of Mont­gomery’s Tav­ern, gath­er­ing place of Wil­liam Lyon Macken­zie’s rebels

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