Heritage status thwarts owner’s $3.1 mil investment

Buyer bought century-old home on Balliol and applied to demolish it and sever


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The property at 505 Balliol St. sold in early 2017

Ashkan Omidi purchased the property at 505 Balliol St. for just over $3 million in 2017 and applied  a few months later to sever the lot and build two three-storey homes. However, his plans for the property went awry when Toronto City Council designated the Davisville property as heritage earlier this year, which prevents Omidi from demolishing it.

Councillor Josh Matlow, of Ward 22, St. Paul’s, requested the designation to protect the historic building, which has been part of the Davisville area since the late 19th century. He said that when he and neighbours in the area noticed the property was on the market, he had to move quickly as he suspected it would be purchased by a developer looking to demolish the structure to build modern townhouses. 

“I recognized that 505 Balliol is one of the few remaining houses on Balliol that was built in the 1890s and that really represents the era when the neighbourhood was first built,” he said.

“Demolition isn’t necessarily the answer to everything.”

“These houses were typically one and a half storeys with a gabled roof, but this house in particular really stood out because it also served as a local grocery store. It looks like an old-time general store. It was the hub where people would pick up groceries and see each other, and it also has a connection to the Davis family, which is the namesake of the area,” Matlow added. 

Sharon Mourer, chair of the South Eglinton Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association’s (SERRA) heritage committee, said SERRA is happy with the designation and added that raising awareness about historic buildings like 505 Balliol is becoming increasingly important as Toronto ages as a city.

“Our properties are getting older, and we’re moving into an era where a lot of properties are entering the 100-year phase. There is a way of renewing and repurposing things without demolition. Demolition isn’t necessarily the answer to everything,” she said.

Matlow said the heritage designation wouldn’t have come as a surprise to the new owner, as Matlow had already moved a motion to heritage staff to look into the building’s protection before Omidi purchased it.

“He was a speculative buyer, but he would have been aware of that information,” Matlow said, “And will it impact his ability to sell two modern townhouses for many millions of dollars? Of course. But I believe it should go back on the market as a residential house in its current built form.”

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