Michael Schwartz –
The St Lawrence Neighbourhood’s proposed heritage conservation district (HCD) came under scrutiny at its second public consultation.
On April 10, attendees at Snell Hall on Church St. heard from the professionals behind the HCD. They also learned about the hard work put in by volunteers: students from Ryerson University and George Brown College and members of the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association (SLNA) have surveyed 330 local buildings for their age, history, architecture and current usage.
One key question emerged from the research: is there sufficient integrity of character for a neighbourhood to be designated as such in the first place?
Keynote presenter Dima Cook of FGDMA Architects enumerated the Neighbourhood’s cultural heritage values as its historical importance as the original footprint of York (now Toronto), its physical character arising from the concentration of 19th century buildings, and its contextual, social and community significance from institutions such as the St. Lawrence Market and St. James’ Cathedral.
While a few buildings intended for inclusion within the new HCD date back to 1821, a concerted building process between 1981 and 2000 totally changed the southern front of a district that had already been changed beyond recognition by the extension of the city’s shoreline in the nineteenth century. Cook’s presentation confirmed just how immense the changes had been for many buildings.
In Cook’s words, all of the buildings were “themes—the stories that can be told.” The slides showed that the regrowth and redevelopment since the 1970s had reversed the industrial decline of the previous half-century.
One criticism of the presentation came during consultation with the audience when an attendee noted that the slide showing the height of the buildings could have been better depicted in a three-dimensional format, thereby allowing greater appreciation of the HCD’s changing landscape.
Comments were invited from the floor. One speaker noted that things were changing so quickly that he just wanted things to be sorted out soon. Presenters replied that the HCD will not be in place for another year, pending any objections from or appeals to council.
A resident from Corktown reported that she had not received an invitation to the meeting—she stressed that the police station site was part of Corktown and that Corktown’s influence on the district would indeed be considered.
The question of who has final approval over the HCD was raised. Councillor Pam McConnell pointed out that the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) has final right of refusal. “We don’t like it,” she said, “but it is the law.”
From Cory Lemos:
The front page of this month’s The Bulletin (May 2014), has an article on the proposed St. Lawrence Heritage District. Continued on page two, second column, the article goes on to state,
“A resident from Corktown reported that she had not received an invitation to the meeting – she stressed that the police station site was part of Corktown and that Corktown’s influence on the district would indeed be considered.”
Well, that mystery Corktown resident was myself. And I must say that the reporters version of the days events are not fully reported, nor correct. One would expect that “invitations” are only sent out when an event is private. But this event was never communicated to be a private event. The last minute announcement sent out by SLNA people steering this event was reported to be a “public consultation”.
But “public” is not the proper word either, because “public consultations” are just that, and Corktown stakeholders have NEVER been included in the process.
To my surprise, by attending this “private” gathering, I also found out that this was the groups second consultation. Yes, I did voice my displeasure, but I started off by asking presenter Dima Cook, of FGDMA Architects, why was she asking the people of St Lawrence how they felt about the boundaries – proposed to cross over from St. Lawrence and to include: 51 Division and the street block where Staples and the Porsch dealership are located (both of which are in Corktown)? I also went on to inform her that I had found out about the so-called public consultation, (by chance).
As Dima Cook could not respond I requested to have answers by Mary MacDonald, Acting Manager for City of Toronto Heritage Services.
Note: Ward 28 Councilor was aware of the proposed Corktown boundary changes since 2009, and never said anything nor did her staff take steps to inform local stakeholders affected, or those interested in maintaining the neighbourhoods rich history.