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Globe and Mail: Obituary Stephen A Otto
John Lorinc and Alex Bozikovic | April 30, 2018

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Historical conservationist Stephen Otto mounted a victorious defence of Fort York

From Issue No. 269 | May 21, 2018

The application surfaced at a pivotal moment, when council was approving plans for the redevelopment of the railway lands. 

With the Lake Shore plans barrelling forward, an upstart group called Friends of Fort York (FoFY) surfaced with sharp criticisms. “What is proposed,” said the group’s co-founder, heritage conservation expert Stephen A. Otto, “is on a scale that overpowers the fort and is inappropriate for the site.” A wall of condos would block access to Fort York, he added.

But Mr. Otto and Friends weren’t NIMBYs; quite the opposite, in fact. They were aiming to give Fort York breathing space so the garrison could become physically and socially integrated into the city that existed because of it. 

In the spring of 1995, the city and the builders returned with a scaled-down plan that called for the development of Fort York Boulevard and public space along the fort’s southern ramparts, as well as a series of north-south view corridors and parks linking the fort precinct to Lake Shore Boulevard. 

“What we like,” Mr. Otto said to a reporter about the revised design, “is that it gives the fort the accessibility, the visibility and the dignity we think is appropriate. It’s a national historic site. It should be treated in more than a passing way.”

It’s safe to say that not even the British Army defended Fort York with the determination that Mr. Otto brought to the task. “Steve always believed that Fort York was the birthplace of Toronto,” says Don Cranston, FoFY’s chair. “He felt that knowing the area provides a rootedness for all residents [of Toronto], not just the direct descendants of the original settlers.”

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