Like many of you, I was devastated to learn about the sudden demolition of the Bank of Montreal heritage building in neighbouring Ward 16 at Yonge and Roselawn in late January.
In a previous development application for the site, city staff had identified a number of heritage attributes on the building and were in the process of reviewing the property for heritage designation. Unfortunately, under the Ontario Planning Act, the province only permits the city to deny a demolition permit if the building is formally designated as a heritage property, which is a lengthy process.
Heritage properties on Toronto’s commercial boulevards are important contributors to the character and health of our vibrant communities. That’s why I recently voted with City Council on two motions requesting that the province strengthen the city’s ability to protect historic landmarks in our neighbourhoods.
The first motion requests that the Province of Ontario give Toronto more authority in designating heritage properties under the Ontario Heritage Act, which would help speed up the process to protect buildings. Council also requested more control over the demolition of non-residential properties. At present, residential properties must submit an approved building permit prior to demolishing a structure but commercial properties do not currently have the same restrictions.
The second motion asks for internal improvements in Toronto Building and City Planning to improve the city’s current heritage review process and make it easier to identify proposed demolitions of buildings with heritage significance.
We must do more to protect the character of our main streetscapes and commercial boulevards, especially in light of the unprecedented over-development and density in the Yonge-Eglinton area – and these motions are an important step forward.