Making new use of old buildings
David West Richmond Hill Ward 4 Councillor
Richmond Hill has an interesting history, and the manifestations of this history continue to add character to our community. The historic structures that grace our town are gifts from our past.
One of the best ways to preserve our built heritage is to encourage property owners to explore “adaptive reuse” of these buildings, which means older buildings are remodelled to create more modern and usable spaces while preserving the character of the building. The “new old” building then becomes a historically significant and useful building again.
For example, the first Richmond Hill High School at 10266 Yonge St. dates back to 1897. In 1932 this building became a part of the town offices, and in 2008, it became part of the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts and Covernotes Coffee House. The building has had three different “lives” and is a beautiful pairing of a historical building fused with a more modern architectural style.
Council periodically considers requests to tear down buildings of historic interest. Recently, council deliberated on an application to demolish the William Neal House near Elgin Mills Road East and Yonge Street to make way for development. Council has asked that the applicant and the staff find a way to avoid demolition in favour of adaptive reuse.
We have lost historic buildings because at the time of demolition the push for “progress” meant that it was easier to tear it down than renovate. Looking forward, maintaining community character needs to include preserving and repurposing historic buildings.
Richmond Hill councillor David West in front of 10266 Yonge St.