Toronto has a shameful record when it comes to protecting its architectural heritage.
The wanton demolition of the Bank of Montreal building at 2444 Yonge Street earlier this year and the Stollery’s Building at Yonge and Bloor in January 2015, are just two of the most recent examples of the City’s inability to stay ahead of development applications. We need to implement a more proactive mechanism to protect better protect Toronto’s built heritage before. That’s why I moved a motion in 2015 to strengthen our heritage policy framework.
Currently, for a building to have protection, it must be either “listed” or “designated” under the Ontario Heritage Act (OHA). A very lengthy process is required for a property to become listed, including a full evaluation and completed Staff research report, followed by consideration by both Community Council and City Council. Only following City Council approval does a property become eligible for protection under the OHA, including demolition protections under the Ontario Planning Act. This review process can take up to five months to complete for a single property. For a property to become fully designated, the process can take up to eight months. There is nothing to save a heritage property from the wrecking ball while this process is taking place.
One of the recommendations in my motion asked City Planning staff to report back to Planning and Growth Management Committee on the feasibility of undertaking a city-wide heritage survey, much like the one that was recently completed in Los Angeles (SurveyLA), in an effort to be more inclusive, proactive and expeditious.
We are still waiting on the Chief Planner to take action on this Council direction.
A recent Toronto Star Op-Ed article by Michael McClelland of ERA Architects spurred three separate motions at last week’s City Council meeting asking for the very same thing I did over two years ago: a survey of the entire city. I am thankful for the additional impetus and urgency my colleagues’ motions have lent to my initial request to push this important step forward swiftly. We’ve lost too much of our built heritage already.
You can read more about the current challenges facing the City’s heritage policy and my efforts to improve them in this article.
Also, for your convenience, I have created an interactive map of all heritage properties located in Ward 22.