Busi­nesses don’t want her­itage sta­tus

Landown­ers con­test list­ing of 258 prop­er­ties on city’s reg­is­ter

Midtown Post - - News - — Angela Hen­nessy

Toronto City Coun­cil has granted 258 prop­er­ties her­itage sta­tus in Mid­town, but some busi­ness own­ers are call­ing the batch list­ing a poor move by the city.

The ag­gres­sive push by the city comes af­ter years of his­tor­i­cal — and not so his­tor­i­cal — build­ings be­ing bull­dozed to make way for tall glassy con­dos as de­vel­op­ers grap­ple for land in a grow­ing city. Mid­town has been one of the hard­est hit ar­eas in re­cent years with the seem­ingly end­less pres­ence of cranes and dust in the air.

The batch list­ing on the Toronto Her­itage Reg­is­ter was ap­proved by city coun­cil in early Oc­to­ber. It sin­gled out two- and three-storey build­ings on main streets such as Yonge Street, Eglin­ton Av­enue, Mount Pleas­ant Road and Bayview Av­enue.

The batch list­ing has caused a num­ber of small busi­ness own­ers and landown­ers to worry they may now pay the price for lack of a bet­ter plan to ad­dress overde­vel­op­ment.

“I’ve owned the build­ing for almost 30 years. That’s my re­tire­ment. I don’t want some­one to tell me what to do,” Dianne Monkman, owner of Jacaranda Tree & Co on Mount Pleas­ant, said.

“I think there are a num­ber of is­sues. With­out giv­ing me any true ex­pla­na­tion, they are tak­ing away my rights as a prop­erty owner. They can’t ar­bi­trar­ily tell us what we can and can not do,” she added.

Own­ers of listed prop­er­ties have to an­swer to the city’s of­fi­cial plan and prove how they will con­serve the her­itage build­ing if they choose to re­de­velop. They will also be ob­li­gated to give 60 days no­tice ahead of any de­mo­li­tion.

Although Monkman said she has re­ceived lit­tle feed­back from the city, she was told the brick that runs along the top of her build­ing was enough to jus­tify the list­ing.

David Zam­mit, who owns Bernardi’s An­tiques on Mount Pleas­ant, agreed with Monkman and noted that the prece­dent set by the batch list­ing could af­fect the value of his prop­erty should he sell.

“I un­der­stand that they [the city] don’t want to just see ev­ery­thing be glass con­dos, but I think they need to set guide­lines or rules rather than just telling me that I can’t sell my build­ing,” he said.

An­other prob­lem small busi­ness own­ers have iden­ti­fied is that few of them can af­ford the steep price tag of most ad­dresses in the area. It is de­vel­op­ers who can foot this bill.

A build­ing at 1642 Bayview Ave. on the north­west cor­ner of Manor Road East, for ex­am­ple, was in­cluded in the batch list­ing and is cur­rently on the mar­ket for $6.5 mil­lion with 5,375 square feet.

Zam­mit also said that some build­ings have sim­ply been passed over for her­itage sta­tus, with no ob­vi­ous rea­son why, which has caused fur­ther con­fu­sion and up­set.

“They are pick­ing and choos­ing, which also isn’t re­ally fair,” he said.

City coun­cil­lor Josh Mat­low said he un­der­stands their fears but de­fended the steps be­ing taken by the city’s her­itage staff and plan­ning com­mit­tee.

“I agree there should not be an ar­bi­trary ster­il­iza­tion of prop­er­ties. That is not what the city is do­ing,” Mat­low said and added that th­ese listings will im­prove the his­tor­i­cal value of the com­mu­nity.

Larry Bir­icz, a res­i­dent and prop­erty owner in Mid­town, ar­gued the city ig­nored the busi­ness and com­mer­cial side of the is­sue when city staff con­sulted res­i­dents alone.

“To have grabbed 258 prop­er­ties af­ter con­sult­ing with res­i­den­tial groups was a mis­take in ap­proach,” Bir­icz said. “They talked to the res­i­dents who said, ‘Yeah not in my back­yard, her­itage ev­ery­thing.’ ”

Ac­cord­ing to Mat­low, th­ese listings would have been ul­ti­mately in­evitable.

“Con­sul­ta­tion isn’t go­ing to af­fect the her­itage plan­ning staff’s rec­om­men­da­tions be­cause it’s not sub­jec­tive. They look at fact-based mer­its of ar­chi­tec­tural or cul­tural her­itage. They don’t con­sult with coun­cil­lors ei­ther. It ei­ther is or it isn’t,” Mat­low said.

How­ever Bir­icz said he re­mains firmly against the city’s ap­proach.

“The her­itage reg­istry is the wrong tool for a prob­lem about de­vel­op­ment,” he said.

I’ve owned the build­ing for almost 30 years. That’s my re­tire­ment. I don’t want some­one to tell me what to do.”

Dianne Monkman is crit­i­cal of the city’s push to hand out her­itage sta­tus on main streets

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