Toronto seeks way to temporarily stop demolitions

7 Austin Place (Photo credit: Suzanne Long)
7 Austin Place (Photo credit: Suzanne Long)

The City of Toronto, or at least one of it’s councillors, Joe Mihevc, was publicly wondering in the Toronto Star about the need for a way to temporarily stop the demolition of historically important buildings after a developer from the melodiously named 1626829 Ontario Ltd all but demolished a heritage home in that city.

The property, 7 Austin Terrace, was designed by John Lyle, a fairly well known Canadian architect, for John Maclean, founder of  a little magazine called The Business Man’s. Said magazine has changed names more recently and is now known as Macleans. Both Heritage Toronto and the Community History Project (PDF) have weighed in on the issue and apparently as late as Sept. it wasn’t even known what the owner was going to do.

Closer to home, the Oak Bay council recently used its authority to temporarily stop the demolition of a house for 90 days (PDF, page 6) after there was concern around council about the potential heritage value of the property. In the end, the demolition permit was granted after a report to council by the Heritage Comm. determined that the house had little historical value.

Demolitions aren’t exactly a new problem here in Oak Bay, with its large stock of historic homes. Excluding University Woods just north of Camosun, the last major building boom in the municipality was the 1960s. Demolitions are a particular bugaboo of Coun. Cassidy, although the whole council usually shares his opinions.

One of the problems both Oak Bay and Toronto face is the lack of a complete heritage register, listing buildings historical and heritage values, whether or not they are officially designated or not.

Also fairly unique to Oak Bay is the use of differentially priced demolition vs deconstruction permits, in an attempt to make them more attractive to developers and home owners, although the $50-$200 price difference (PDF, page 31) is more about making a statement than actual financial incentive. Interestingly, moving a building is the same price as demolishing it, even though the stated purpose of the deferential pricing is reduction of material going to the landfill and climate change.

Of course, heritage designation against a property owners wishes can get quite expensive, as the City of Victoria discovered last year with the Rogers’ Chocolates interior, although hopefully there will be some compromise there.