David Shiner pushes for 'heritage survey' that could help save historic buildings

Toronto city council is expected to vote Friday on a series of motions that would direct staff to study ways to enhance protection for heritage buildings.

Creating a list of potential heritage sites would help the city protect them, councillor says

A group of residents said they were devastated to learn that 2444 Yonge St., a 110-year-old Bank of Montreal building, had been demolished. (CBC)

Toronto city council is expected to vote Friday on a series of motions that would direct staff to study ways to enhance protection for heritage buildings.

Councillors will consider three separate motions, including one moved by.Coun. David Shiner proposing that staff study a city-wide survey that would list "all buildings that have potential heritage value."

Shiner's motion asks the "Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to report back to the Planning and Growth Management Committee in September 2017."

Shiner says such a survey would send a message the city is serious about protecting Toronto's historic structures..

"It's saying we have an interest in building. There may be facets of the building or the whole building we want to protect," said Shiner, who represents Ward 24, Willowdale,

Currently, there are only two ways to protect buildings in Toronto that may have historical value: an official heritage designation or a conservation district study, which Shiner said require time and effort to complete and can be appealed.

Shiner, who is also the vice chair of the real estate committee, said a heritage list would streamline the system and also benefit developers who would understand the city's explicit interest in a building.

"Anyone who owns it or goes to purchase it knows. And if you do apply for a permit to demolish it or to redevelop it you know we're going to be there."

Shiner's motion inspired by demolition of century-old bank building

Shiner's motion specifically mentions the loss of 2444 Yonge Street, a century-old bank building near Roselawn Avenue, saying the demolition "identified the urgent need to better protect Toronto's built heritage."

There was widespread frustration among conservation and historical associations about the destruction of the beaux arts-style Bank of Montreal building earlier this year.

Linda McCarthy, the vice-president of the Lytton Park Residents' Organization, was in the process of applying to have that building officially designated.

There's not much left in north Toronto in terms of buildings on Yonge Street.- Linda McCarthy, Lytton Park Residents' Organization

But the developer's application to tear down 2444 Yonge St. was approved within the 30-day period required by the province and the developer demolished it.

McCarthy said "there's not much left in north Toronto in terms of buildings on Yonge Street," but that residents associations like hers, as well as historical and preservation groups, are willing to help the city compile the list of heritage properties.

"They know more about the heritage of their area than anyone else does," McCarthy said.

A city of 'glass and chrome'

"It's nice to save some of the heritage for our children, You want everything to be glass and chrome?" she said.

Coun. Mary Fragedakis, who represents Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth, agreed that it's time "to save Toronto's built heritage," which has lacked "the right protections."

She wanted preservation services staff to compile a report for September to outline "due process, cost, what could we be doing."

About the Author

Stephanie Matteis

Stephanie Matteis is a senior reporter with CBC News, filing stories for television, radio & online. She's a pathological truthteller and storytelling junkie whose work appears on CBC Toronto, The National and Marketplace. Contact Stephanie: stephanie.matteis@cbc.ca and @CBCsteph on Twitter.