Heritage conservation district boundaries disappoint St. Lawrence residents

Siobhan Geary–

To preserve the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood’s distinctive character in a time of growth and development, the city, in partnership with a number of architectural consultants, is establishing a heritage conservation district (HCD).

The proposed HCD will protect historically significant properties from demolition and manage development in and around these properties, ensuring that development won’t negatively impact the neighborhood’s character.

“The plan provides framework, guidelines and policies to allow that heritage to be protected,” said Dima Cook of architectural consultation firm FGMDA, “It is not meant to freeze the district into a museum form.”

Recognizing that there is much diversity even within the district, the city plans to establish two tiers of guidelines—one to protect the district as a whole, and another more specific set pertaining to character sub-areas, such as the Flatiron district and Market district.

Following an extensive study, the plan was unveiled at a public consultation on March 23 at St. Lawrence Hall, attended by approximately 40 community members.  The plan itself was generally well received but the HCD’s boundaries were the source of some contention.

Some residents felt that neighboring areas, notably the Esplanade and Victoria–Richmond, also have enough character and heritage to warrant preservation and were therefore disappointed by their exclusion.

However, the city maintained that the St. Lawrence HCD’s boundaries are appropriate, and suggested the other areas could apply for a separate designation.

“The boundaries came out of a study… We wanted to take the time to clearly evaluate what’s important in the district and from there, determine what the boundaries should be,” said city heritage planner Michael Vidoni, “I think that the study comes to the right conclusion about the boundaries. There’s merit in other areas, but it doesn’t mean they all have to be in the same district.”

The meeting to review the draft HCD plan will be held in May.