Metro Morning

City council freezes 'wild west demolition' of downtown buildings

More than 300 buildings will be temporarily protected from demolition in the King and Spadina area under a new motion passed by city council on Wednesday.

More than 300 buildings in King and Spadina area protected for one year under new motion

Two addresses on Adelaide Street West are among the 303 buildings that will be protected from demolition under a new motion passed by city council Wednesday. (Google Maps )

Hundreds of buildings will be temporarily protected from demolition in the King Street West and Spadina Avenue area under a new motion passed by city council on Wednesday.

Joe Cressy, city councillor for Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina, said the one-year freeze on demolition of potentially historic addresses will buy time while a new heritage district plan is put in place.

​"What we're trying to do is, as we grow, ensure that the growth and development reflects the unique character of King and Spadina," said Cressy on CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

The 303 buildings identified in the motion are primarily on main arteries like Richmond Street West, King Street West, and Adelaide Street West.

'If we grow as a city without reflecting or honouring our past, we lose something about us,' said Coun. Joe Cressy. (Kate McGillivray/CBC)

Not a development freeze, says Cressy

Cressy said that the freeze does not mean a moratorium on development.

"If you have a development application, you can still do a partial demolition or a full demolition if you get the city's permission," he said.

And if you don't get the city's permission?

"We would prosecute it as hard as we can," said Cressy. "Good luck building something there afterwards with city approval."

The motion was not in the agenda for Thursday's city council meeting, a tactic he said was deliberate.

"We walked it onto the floor by stealth to ensure that people did not go out and demolish," said Cressy.

Learning from the past

The King and Spadina area is the fastest-growing in Toronto, with a red-hot surge in development that Cressy said is taking its toll on the area.

"We've had a rash of demolitions, and we were aware of a number more that were coming," he said, adding that the new law will "stop that wild west demolition practice that we saw at Stollerys at Yonge and Bloor."

Stollerys, an apparel store that stood on the corner of Yonge and Bloor Streets for more than a century, was demolished in a hurry last year, causing an outcry from architects and city planners.

Demolition on the Stollerys building in winter 2015. At the time, the city's chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat said that she thought the developer rushed the demolition to sidestep the possibility that the building would be protected for its heritage value. (CBC)

Demolition practices in Toronto made the news again in September when a developer razed a 1917 factory in Mimico that was weeks away from obtaining heritage status.

Examples like that serve as a caution to Cressy, who said he hopes that the motion will stop his area from losing buildings "we can never get back again."