Gore buildings' heritage legislation appeal won't be heard until spring

After two winters being battered by the elements, a strip of historic buildings lining Gore Park will have to endure a third season of snow, sleet and cold.
This historic strip of buildings that line Gore Park has been exposed to the elements for the last two winters, and now it is about to head into a third. (Adam Carter/CBC)

After two winters being battered by the elements, a strip of historic buildings lining Gore Park will have to endure a third season of snow, sleet and cold.

The lengthy saga between the city and developer David Blanchard isn't coming to an end any time soon. Blanchard is appealing the city's last-minute heritage designation at the Ontario Environment and Land Tribunal – but that won't be heard until April.

So the buildings will sit in the city's centre for at least one more winter – neither torn down and rebuilt as something new nor restored to their former, decades-old glory.

"Every year that goes by makes restoration more expensive or less likely," said Philip Hoad, the city's former manager of Heritage Facilities and Capital Planning.

"It's very sad."

Blanchard did not respond to a request for comment for this story, but Ward 2 Coun. Jason Farr told CBC News that city staff have been in contact with developers Hughson Business Space Corporation about the buildings.

"I am hopeful that we will have some progress soon," Farr said in an email.

It's heartbreaking, but nothing about this surprises me one iota.- Phillip Hoad, former city manager of Heritage Facilities and Capital Planning

So far, there have been no outward signs of any process. Blanchard hasn't been speaking to media about his plans and the previous two winters haven't been kind to the buildings.

Some windows are broken, and the inner ceiling has fallen down in one storefront. The sprayed-on stencil designs painted over the plywood covering the exposed parts of the buildings meant to gussy them up for the Pan Am Games have started to fade.

According to documents submitted to the tribunal, Blanchard's objection to the city's intention to designate is rooted in that many of the original components of the buildings have been altered, including the first floors, window openings, original windows, and the removal of some of the original stonework.

"There has not been the necessary careful research and evaluation … to support the designation of the properties," the documents read.

Hoad says the real issue is that there is no teeth in current heritage legislation to do what is necessary to save the buildings.

"This is prime real estate – but it's all about money for these developers," he said. "It's heartbreaking, but nothing about this surprises me one iota."

adam.carter@cbc.ca

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