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Issue No. 186 | November 28, 2011

1. Heritage Conservation District Policy Moving Forward in Toronto
Catherine Nasmith

This is definitely a good and bad news story. The good news is that after an extremely long process, the final draft policy document debuted at the Toronto Preservation Board last week.

It was generally well received, both because it offers a clear process and it offers hope that communities may be able to once again engage in gaining protection under the Ontario Heritage Act. The City has been refusing new applications for nearly five years now.

The bad news is there is still a strong sense that the recommended process and standards may still be more complicated than is absolutely necessary.

Generally, there were kudos all round for Scott Barrett, the report’s primary author, but nonetheless there was also a sense that the document could result in an overly extended process for HCD’s, and extra consulting expenses for communities who are being asked to fundraise for the process. Even though it is possible to divert Section 37 monies to HCD studies, not every community would have access to such funds. Much is said about the partnership between the City and the Community, but the City could do more to support the community volunteers and streamline the process.

There is also an issue with deciding how to set priorities for processing of HCD’s. It would be a pity to pit one neighbourhood against another. Given the pent up demand, the City needs to be inventive to allow everyone to work together to protect all of the City's valuable neighbourhoods.

At the moment it is estimated that it would take a minimum of two years to process a study and plan…..too long for sure. Harbord Village I took one year, and that seems to me to be a reasonable timeline goal. Slow processes take too much staff time and lead to volunteer and consultant burn out.

We all agreed that this long awaited document must move forward as fast as possible.

George Rust-d’Eye, a former chair of the Toronto Historical Board, one of the province’s top municipal lawyer, and who has been very active in setting up the Cabbagetown HCD, asked for the document to be deferred to allow time for his very experienced group to offer detailed comment. He also offered to comment on the proposal’s relationship to other legislation like the Toronto Act, and other planning laws and policy.

Michael McLelland expressed concern with making the process more complicated than necessary for community volunteers and the need to put the policy in context with the Official Plan Review, and other planning policies in the City of Toronto.

I asked for time to deal with some missing policies, such as dealing with the Committee of Adjustment process, and Adjacent to as part of HCD plans and some suggestions for streamlining the process.

Sue Dexter of Harbord Village pressed for immediate adoption so that she and other communities can move forward.

After quite a bit of discussion it was agreed to move the report ahead to Planning and Growth Management in February, but in the interim staff to meet with deputants and other interested parties to incorporate comments. The hope is that these can be identified and incorporated quickly. If these result in significant changes to the document  then the amended report could still go back to the TPB in January.

Please review the attached document and get your comments to Scott Barrett <> right away.

2. Globe and Mail: Bruno Freschi House for Sale

In the early 1960s, after enlisting Erickson Massey Architects to design a house for their waterfront property, the Staples haggled endlessly over their early proposals, rejecting the firm’s first three designs. “By then, they were becoming known as ‘problematic clients,’ ”jokes Kathleen.

The project was then handed to Bruno Freschi, a rising young talent at Erickson Massey . Freschi would later serve as chief architect of Expo 86 and designer of the 1985 Agha Khan mosque in nearby Burnaby, and practise architecture in England, Italy and Switzerland. But like Arthur Erickson, he honed his design skills and ideas on plum residential projects in West Vancouver.

“Arthur trusted me,” says Freschi, recalling those early years in a recent interview. “He would use me as a surrogate when he was too busy.” And when the firm landed two megaprojects to design – Simon Fraser University and the University of Lethbridge – it got very busy indeed. But Freschi himself remained more low-key than the larger-than-life Erickson. “I was ‘the other guy,’ ” he says, smiling.

Completed in 1967, the Staples residence comprises roughly 2,600 square feet on two levels of glass-and-timber framework that seems to emerge right out of the craggy and precipitous slope. On one level, it has served as a practical home for the paradigmatic 20th-century family: dad, mom, daughter, son in four bedrooms and three bathrooms. But on another level, it’s a work of art that extends far beyond the pragmatic needs of living. Kathleen Staples remembers the magic of growing up in a house where, from the second-floor bedroom corridor, she could look down at both the ocean and the family room.In the early 1960s, after enlisting Erickson Massey Architects to design a house for their waterfront property, the Staples haggled endlessly over their early proposals, rejecting the firm’s first three designs. “By then, they were becoming known as ‘problematic clients,’ ”jokes Kathleen.

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3. Globe and Mail: For Fun-Cartoons on Canada's Intangible Heritage
Graham Roumieu

Canada's intangible heritage

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Editor's Note:Some rather fun, tongue in cheek cartoons

4. Globe and Mail: Profile Ian MacDonald Architect
Alex Bozikovic

A Toronto home that frames the view

If you believe the architect Ian MacDonald, his buildings come straight out of the ground.

“Each place has its own qualities you can work with,” he says. “Each project comes down to the architectural idea, and where that comes from is the place. The site gives that to you.”

Many architects use phrases like this, but with MacDonald they're both apt and completely inadequate. Over 25 years of work, he's made a reputation with buildings that respond to their sites but in very surprising ways.

His own house in Wychwood Park is the best example.

Starting with the small footprint of an existing house, he carved down into the earth to add below-ground space, and also a remarkable sunken courtyard tucked into a hillside.

His design doesn't just respond to the landscape; it reshapes it.

For a recent project near High Park, MacDonald took a similarly bold approach to a building and a piece of earth. His task was to renovate a two-storey Georgian-style house for a couple of empty nesters, Georg and Petra Unger, opening it up and modernizing it. He carved away the back facade – and much of the front as well, making a striking composition of broad windowpanes in sapele wood frames.

This sounds conventional, but two factors make the house unusual. One is the location on Ellis Park Road, which snakes along a hillside facing High Park. There is a fair amount of traffic out front, along with incredible vistas of the treetops. In the backyard is a very steep slope lined with ancient pines, with a neighbouring house tucked into the woods. During the 30 years they'd lived here, the Ungers, German expatriates who run a high-end woodworking company, had always wanted more of a connection with the forest – yet without the neighbours seeing too much. “We always planned to open up the back and have lots of glass, but we hadn't figured out how,” Petra Unger says. They hired Macdonald “because we admired Ian's sensitivity to the surroundings,” she adds. “And Ian figured it out.”

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5. Globe and Mail: Ron Thom for Sale
Carolyn Ireland

A crown on the Caledon countryside

Stuart Horne planned to become a farmer when he left the Yorkshire dales in 1949 to emigrate to Canada. But Mr. Horne studied at McGill University, turned a couple of corners, and made his way to the world of finance.

“On his first boat ride over the called himself a farmer,” says his daughter, Bridget Colman, of her late father. “Five years later, he called himself an economist. You could do that in Canada.”

As his success on Bay Street grew, Mr. Horne still yearned for the rolling landscape he had left behind. In the 1970s, he bought 25 acres of land severed from a farm in Caledon, Ont.

Ms. Colman recalls being about four years old when her father led her up a steep hill through the farm's apple orchard and told her that he planned to build a house on top of the ridge. It was an amazing chunk of countryside, with the Credit River flowing along the southern boundary. Across the valley stood a slice of the Niagara Escarpment known as the Devil's Pulpit.

“You sit on just under 30 acres and yet you feel like you're on 500. You've got the whole escarpment,” says Ms. Colman. “It's such a unique piece of property that to put something standard on it would be a tragedy.”

And so Mr. Horne found his way to one of Canada's most pre-eminent architects of the day, Ron Thom. A friend brought the two together and the partnership flourished.

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6. Inside Toronto: Ormscliffe Designation

Heritage designation for Mimico Estates delayed

Proposal to be considered during broader Mimico revitalization study

Heritage designation for Mimico Estates delayed. Ormscliffe, the property above located at 2523 Lake Shore Blvd. W., is one of a bundle of properties known as Mimico Estates that community members recently fought to have designated as heritage properties at EYCC. Councillors instead voted to have the designation report referred to the Mimico 20/20 Revitalization Initiative. Courtesy photo
Related Stories
AT ISSUE: Arts support shapes Lakeshore's future
The arts can help shape Lakeshore's revitalization, argues the head of a longstanding arts group.

The recommended heritage designation of a bundle of properties on Lake Shore Boulevard West known as the Mimico Estates was referred last week to the Mimico 20/20 Revitalization Initiative - an unpopular decision among the many residents who lobbied Etobicoke York Community Council to have them designated immediately.

A heated two-hour debate Thursday, April 21 heard a dozen or so local residents and heritage activists speak passionately in favour of designating the "community jewel" that is Mimico Estates, which comprises of 2325, 2527, 2533-2535, 2539, and 2541 Lake Shore Blvd. W., as well as 5, 7, and 9 Douglas Blvd.

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Editor's Note:I include this link for context on the Ormscliffe situation

7. Ottawa Citizen: Saving Briarcliffe
Maria Cook

Rothwell Heights residents hope to have their unique enclave protected as a heritage site

OTTAWA  In Briarcliffe, every time a property changes hands theres a collective holding of the breath, resident Danielle Jones says. Located in Rothwell Heights on the east side of Ottawa, Briarcliffe consists of two streets, Briarcliffe Drive and Kindle Court, and a park. It is a rare, intact example of mid-century Modern architecture and planning. Houses designed by a number of significant Ottawa architects are situated on large wooded lots. The 20-acre district was developed in the 1960s by a group of like-minded people who had a collective vision of houses set in nature. Today, in an effort to protect the character of the neighbourhood, residents have asked the City of Ottawa to designate it as a heritage conservation district under the Ontario Heritage Act. If designated, it would be the first heritage conservation district in Ottawa and Ontario  potentially in Canada  representing this time period, says city heritage planner Lesley Collins. This era provides a lot of interesting examples of new ideas and changes in the way we did things, says Collins. Theres a necessity for us to start looking at this now because these buildings arent going to be here in another 30 or 40 years. These areas are starting to change and be torn down.

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8. RIBA Journal: Small Pockets of Capital and Urbane Renewal

Kick the Habit -- Guerilla tactics

Weaning us all off our addiction to carbon emissions has given a new focus to refurbishment and a specialism to his practice, says Craig White

‘May you live in interesting times’ is said to be a Chinese curse and interesting these times certainly are. Economically, we have had a banking crisis, a credit crunch and a recession. Environmentally, climate change demands CO2 emissions be cut and natural resource depletion and scarcity is driving up costs with worse to come. Politically, we have cuts and uncertainty. It is all pretty depressing and just about as interesting as most of us would like it to get. We seem to be living through a perfect storm that has affected construction more than most industries and architects especially.

However, we should never let a good crisis go to waste. The game has changed, the good old days are not coming back, and it’s time to innovate. One of our innovations is reHAB.

New ways of working

In the pre-recession, debt-led era, making money in the construction industry was not that hard to do, but it was expensive and relied on a banking system that would lend money. A developer needed money to find a site, borrow more to buy it and still more to clear existing buildings to develop it. At the same time he had to pay a design team to design it, a contractor to build it, and an agent to lease or sell it. An entirely debt-led development model.

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Editor's Note:A recession's silver lining-- A very interesting piece that links urban renewal, building recycling, and humane communities to small pockets of capital available in a recession.

9. Tandem: Plans to protect estate of James Franceschini
Rosanna Bonura

Plans to protect estate of James Franceschini: Area built by prominent Italian-Canadian proposed to be under Ontario Heritage Act

When you think about notable Italian-Canadians that have shaped our city, the first that come to mind are likely ones that have either made headlines or personalities seen on television or heard on the radio. However, there is one Italian-Canadian that we should all be aware of, for his story is an integral part of the history of Italian-Canadians and the struggles they faced in our country. His name is James Franceschini.

Born in Pescara, Italy in 1890, James Franceschini came to Canada in 1905, like many, a poor immigrant in search of a better life. Armed with dedication, hard work, and in his case, entrepreneurial skills, Franceschini worked as a labourer for several years. He would later become a contractor and founder of Dufferin Construction- a career that proved to be a prosperous one for Franceschini and ultimately made him a multi millionaire. In fact, Dufferin Construction still remains as one of the biggest and most successful in its industry.

In 1925, Franceschini purchased Ormscliffe, the estate of Albert B. Ormsby- another leading Toronto Industrialist. Once in his possession, Franceschini did a complete rebuilding of the estate, adding many buildings and renovating the main house. The estate was then renamed Myrtle Villa in honour of Franceschinis only child. His vision for the estate did not stop there. By 1939, Franceschini had one of the largest private horse stable and training facilities in Canada. There he bred winning Hackney horses and ponies, many of which won awards from shows in both Canada and the United States. Several of Franceschinis horses and ponies have been inducted into the Canadian Hackney Hall of Fame.

Franceschinis rise to success would sadly come to halt in 1940 and unjustly so. That year, James Franceschini was arrested by the RCMP as an enemy alien and transported to an internment camp in northern Ontario. He built a successful company and became a multi millionaire only to have it jeopardized as can only be looked at as a blatant act of racism because he was Italian, says local historian, Michael Harrison. In addition to his arrest, the entirety of his property was seized by the Custodian of Enemy Property of the federal government who sold his assets for a fraction of their worth. They also sold his show horses and the contents of his greenhouses.

In 1941, James Franceschini was released from the internment camp due to his battle with cancer and declining health. He underwent surgery in Toronto and in true hard-working fashion, began rebuilding his business empire. A judicial jury would later lead to his complete exoneration. Franceschini spent his retirement at his country estate in Mont Tremblant in Quebec and died on September 16, 1960 at the age of 70. This is a story about the Italian immigration struggle in Canada and the racism they faced. Its also a story of triumph because Franceschini succeeded through all this and was able to rebuild his company, explains Harrison.

James Franceschini is a true example of an Italian-Canadian trailblazer, who dedicated his hard work to the city of Toronto. It is without doubt that his contributions deserve to not only be known, but also honoured. On April 1st, 2011, the Toronto Preservation Board adopted a recommendation by planning staff to designate Myrtle Villa estate buildings and landscaping features under the Ontario Heritage Act. By protecting and preserving the Franceschini estate under this act, it would ensure its history, story and lesson be something all Canadians can respect and not forget. This is a powerful story that provides what I like to call a teachable moment. To be able to stand in front of his mansion and know that he had it taken away simply because of his heritage is an important lesson people should know. It also transcends to others outside of the Italian community, other cultures that also faced the same discrimination. Its important to remember and ensure it never happens again, says Harrison.
While to process of officially claiming the estate to be recognized and protected under the Ontario Heritage Act is a long one, the hope remains that other measure will be taken to bring Franceschinis story to the forefront and recognize his contributions to our city. Some of these will hopefully include future commemoration through plaque or walking tours that speaks to his story.
The estate and its related properties are located in the area of Toronto known as Mimico Estates and are a rare surviving example of a waterfront estate in Etobicoke. It is also an integral part of the historical development of the community and therefore important to maintain its character, which belonged to prominent Torontonians of the late 19th, and early 20th centuries that prospered as entrepreneurs in our city.

While the estate is currently occupied as mainly apartment complexes, efforts continue to ensure the estate continues to be integrated in future developments of the site. This was already done in 1950 by the Longo family when they developed the original apartment complex. The historic buildings were evidently admired by the Longo family at the time, which would explain their efforts in integrating them into an apartment complex instead of demolishing and creating a new site. It is hoped that this integration and respect for Canadian history remains as the area continues to be developed. An area-wide planning study known as Mimico 2020 is already in the works. Integrating the history of the site created in part by Franceschini, with the future development of the area is vital. Its history is definitely an asset that would continue to create an urban condo community in Mimico that has history to it.

For information on how you can help preserve this site for the future, contact Michael Harrison at:

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