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Issue No. 177 | May 11, 2011

1. Action Item: The Fort York Bridge--Making Many Connections
Catherine Nasmith

The Fort York Bridge is more than a bridge, it represents an opportunity to connect the City’s past to its present, to correct damage done to Toronto’s nascent Park system of the 1840’s, to finally reconnect lands severed by the railway in the 1850’s The railway brought industry and financial wealth to Toronto, but it destroyed an vision for a waterfront park system designed by John Howard.

I am writing this as a former director of the Niagara Neighbourhood Association, a founder of the Friends of Fort York, the former chair of the Toronto Preservation Board, a former member of the Garrison Creek Community Project, and a consultant to the City of Toronto on an HCD plan for Fort York. I have been actively involved in discussions of planning issues around Fort York since 1985.

In the early nineties the City and the Waterfront Regeneration Trust almost succeeded in getting the railway tracks out of the way, which would have made it possible to reconnect the Garrison Creek park system with the waterfront
In 1994 the Friends of Fort York were founded and rallied around bringing “accessibility, visibility and dignity” to Fort York. The Friends were asking for Fort centered planning as the area around the Fort was in transition from industrial to a residential neighbourhood. That process is well along with redevelopment north and south of the railway tracks.

One of the absolutely key aspects of all of the plans done by different government agencies since 1985 has been to re-claim the city owned lands to the north of the Fort as park, and re-establish the lost landscape of the Garrison Creek, the founding landscape of the Fort and of the city of Toronto. The City has re-zoned most of these lands as parkland. Its development as park depends on the bridge connection. It is unthinkable that the City would not get into the business of selling off city parks for development, yet that seems to be under discussion on these lands associated with Fort York, the City’s most important heritage site.

The recent hastily made, ill-considered decision to send the bridge back to look for cost savings could undo years of careful, thoughtful planning and mean the window of opportunity for construction to coincide with track work would be lost. Stopping the process now guarantees that the bridge will be much more costly in future. If the lands are sold off the opportunity would be lost forever.
It’s not too late. Councillor Mike Layton has been working hard to garner the votes needed to reverse the Committee decision. There are still a few more days to put pressure on.

To read all the news items, see photographs, sign a petition, or email your councilor go to:


2. Associated Press: Turkey conserves Armenian cultural heritage as gesture of reconciliation toward Armenia
Selcan Hacaoglu

 ANKARA, Turkey - Turkey has launched a project to conserve an ancient Armenian cathedral and church in what is seen as a gesture of reconciliation toward its neighbour.

 Turkey and Armenia have been locked in a bitter dispute for decades over the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey in the last years of the Ottoman Empire. Efforts to normalize relations have been dealt a setback by the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan is a close Muslim ally of Turkey.

Turkey, however, says it is committed to improving ties with Armenia, and has already restored the 10th century Akdamar church, perched on a rocky island in Lake Van in eastern Turkey. It has also allowed once-yearly worship at the site as a gesture to Armenia and its own ethnic Armenian minority.

Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay said Tuesday the new project was being launched in partnership with the World Monuments Fund to conserve the remains of the cathedral and the Church of the Holy Savior in Ani, 25 miles (40 kilometres) from the eastern Turkish city of Kars.

According to the New York-based World Monuments Fund, Ani — "one of the world's great cities in the 10th century" — was once the site of hundreds of religious buildings, palaces, fortifications, and other structures. Today it stands abandoned, and the remnants of its celebrated buildings are in a precarious state.

The site, in an earthquake-prone area, has been listed on the World Monuments Watch since 1996.

"Ani, which is of global significance, presents particularly complicated challenges," Gunay said. "We hope that giving new life to the remains of once-splendid buildings, such as the Ani Cathedral and church, will bring new economic opportunities to the region."

The Turkish government recently completed restoration of the Church of Tigran Honents' and the Mosque of Manucehr, converted from a church by invading Seljuk Turks at Ani, which is situated right on the Turkish-Armenian border.

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3. Breaking News, Town of Collingwood

Tremont owners win National BIA Award

Owners, Richard and Anke Lex have once again been recognized for The Tremont project in Collingwoods historic downtown. The project was awarded the best of its field in the Building Rehabilitation and Conservation category at the National BIA conference hosted recently in London , Ontario . Entries in this category exemplified excellence in the comprehensive rehabilitation of a single building (public or private) in a BIA.

Through this annual award program, the Ontario BIA Association (OBIAA) and the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) recognize the best that Business Improvement Association revitalization and management has to offer. These awards celebrate the most successful and innovative efforts in downtown development.

In Downtown Collingwoods support of the award submission, BIA Chair, Bob Cook, explained that & in completing this outstanding project, Richard and Anke Lex have created a vibrant and creative place. This restoration, on the periphery of the downtown cores boundaries, will assist in broadening the commercial and cultural reach of the downtown and encourage like restoration and investment in the area.

As Past President of the Ontario BIA Association, Downtown Collingwood General Manager, Susan Nicholson made the official award presentation to The Tremont owners at the building site, as they were not able to attend the award ceremony in London .

She congratulated Richard and Anke on their achievement, indicating that..  they had taken a building, virtually on the brink of demolition, and created a new, thriving commercial and residential centre in Collingwoods downtown. When accepting the award on their behalf at the recent conference, Ms Nicholson told delegates that &. Richard and Anke Lex are the type of property owners that so many downtowns wish for, and that their commitment to heritage preservation is unparalleled.

"We are thrilled to receive this award," said Richard Lex. Anke added, "No successful revitalization can happen without the support of the community. We are grateful for all the kind words and encouragement throughout the project."

For further information about the project, visit

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4. Globe and Mail: A guilty conscience stifles good urban design
John Bentley Mays

The appearance of the average tall Toronto building these days is the result of several forces, the least powerful of which is architectural imagination.

Too often, an architect is called in by the developer merely to put some decorative touches on a structure whose shape and size have already been determined by the economic bottom line and civic bylaws, and sometimes by the demands of the heritage people at city hall. With the contemporary building art so frequently marginalized, it’s no wonder that boomtown Toronto has few new towers that are architecturally memorable. (I try to keep you posted in this column on the ones that are worth thinking about.)

There is probably nothing to be done to relieve the market and regulatory pressures that are keeping Toronto’s condominium unit-sizes too small and the towers blockish and ill-proportioned. But surely we could become more sensible and discerning when it comes to the preservation of what’s valuable in our built inheritance.

The late real-estate entrepreneur Paul Oberman, and the numerous recent converters of Hogtown’s sturdy old warehouses and factories into attractive residential lofts, have shown the right way forward in the field of architectural conservation. Mr. Oberman, for his part, fervently believed and practised a development philosophy that entailed updating historic edifices for modern commercial use. Loft conversion by other developers has saved many elderly industrial buildings from the wrecker’s ball.

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