Stintz on Midtown: The city has to figure out a better way to protect built heritage, and fast


Published:

Historic Postal Station K was the location of Montgomery’s Tavern, gathering place of William Lyon Mackenzie’s rebels

It is breathtaking how much Toronto has changed over the last 30 years. Many areas of the city are under redevelopment and breathing new life into neighbourhoods. However, as old buildings are demolished to make way for new growth there is a nostalgia for the city’s history and a worry that our past is not being adequately protected.

A recent example is the demolition of the historic Bank of Montreal building at Roselawn and Yonge. Without involving the community, the developer got a permit and razed the building. As expected, there was upset and finger pointing.

The community pointed to the politicians who pointed to the city planners who pointed to those in the building department and those in the building department simply shrugged because they were just doing their job.

The cycle won’t change until someone who works for the city starts to make our heritage a priority. It won’t be an easy job. Protecting heritage buildings is challenging because there are no clear rules that determine when a building actually has heritage value. 

Residents also do not help their own cause when their interest in protecting historic buildings is mixed together with a desire to slow the pace of change. 

Then there are the misplaced efforts to highlight Toronto’s history by designating buildings as heritage when they are simply offices where innovation took flight.

One example was the spirited debate over whether or not the Bata building on Wynford Drive should be demolished to permit the construction of the Aga Khan Museum. At the conclusion of the debate, there was no question that a fascinating part of the city’s history occurred in that office building, but that didn’t make the building a heritage site. The same can be argued for Stollerys at Yonge and Bloor.

However, sometimes it is obvious that a building should be protected and those buildings don’t need to be designated for developers to respect the heritage value of the building.  

The retention of the exterior of Postal Station K at Yonge and Montgomery is a great example of an enlightened developer working with the city and the community to redevelop and preserve the heritage of a site. 

The city needs to be thoughtful about what should be protected and what important stories should be told to the residents of Toronto, not just about the buildings, but also about the people that worked, lived or played in those buildings.  

Edit Module

Join the conversation and have your say by commenting below. Our comment system uses a Facebook plugin. Please note that you'll have to turn off some ad-blockers in order to see the comments.

Edit Module

Karen Stintz is a former city councillor, elected in 2003, and was chair of the TTC. She lives in Ward 16 with her husband and two kids.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

You may also like...

Dr. Jess on Sex: Torontonians put a spring in their step with al fresco liaisons

Dr. Jess on Sex: Torontonians put a spring in their step with al fresco liaisons

According to a national survey’s data, over half of Canadians have had sex in the great outdoors, and 62 per cent fantasize about doing the deed in public.
Posted 1 day ago
New Lit Up festival hits city and includes an event with Barbara Gowdy this week

New Lit Up festival hits city and includes an event with Barbara Gowdy this week

The International Festival of Authors and the Toronto Arts Council have teamed up to present Toronto Lit Up, a series of events over the next few months that showcases some of Canada’s brightest poets, authors and novelists.
Posted 2 days ago
Local volunteer spruces up Leaside’s main street

Local volunteer spruces up Leaside’s main street

Bayview Avenue is a cleaner, greener street today thanks to the efforts of the Bayview Pixies, led by local resident Debora Kuchmé.
Posted 2 days ago
Celebrate Record Store Day Toronto style

Celebrate Record Store Day Toronto style

Searching for ­iconic albums by T.O.’s best local bands in the bins can be fun and rewarding
Posted 5 days ago
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit Module