Mak­ing new use of old build­ings

David West Rich­mond Hill Ward 4 Coun­cil­lor

Thornhill Post - - News -

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.

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