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Toronto Star: Call for City Wide Building Survey
Michael McClelland | April 26, 2017

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A better way to protect Toronto

From Issue No. 258 | May 1, 2017

Bank of Montreal, 2444 Yonge Street-Recently lost

But, there is another culprit — the City’s woefully ineffective process for the protection of Toronto’s built heritage.

Under the current approach to heritage preservation, we will continue to lose buildings. We need to rethink how heritage is protected in the City of Toronto. We believe there is a better way.

The Ontario Heritage Act has two levels of protection: “listing” and “designation.” A building that is listed cannot be demolished legally without heritage preservation staff having a chance to review it and determine if it merits formal designation.

The problem with Toronto’s current approach is that we’ve concentrated on designating a few buildings at a time, or embarking on years-long heritage conservation district studies and not simply “listing” important buildings, such as the former Bank of Montreal building 2444 Yonge St.

The local branch of the Bank of Montreal, built in 1907, was a significant local landmark designed by the Montreal firm Peden and McLaren. Peden (1877-1969) was responsible for designing Bank of Montreal buildings across Canada in the early 1900s, many of which remain in use as banks today. This building featured a simplified Beaux-Arts style and its construction represented the emerging growth and prosperity of North Toronto during this early part of the 20th century.

The number of other architecturally and culturally significant buildings that have not been listed by the city, and are therefore unprotected, is staggering. One only needs to think of the Stollery’s building at Yonge and Bloor Sts., never listed, and now demolished. Or the Davisville School, currently proposed for demolition, and again, never listed.

What we’ve lost is distressing, but it also spurs us to demand better protection for the important buildings that still stand today. To save Toronto’s built history we recommend the city prioritize a shockingly simple approach: do a survey for the entire city, identify all the potential heritage buildings and list them.

Bizarrely this has never been done; the result is that we lose buildings to wrecking balls even though everyone agrees they are culturally valuable.

Editors Notes: I was a co-signer to this Opinion piece -- what is proposed would be a massive project, but with assistance from citizens across Toronto, it could be doable.
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