If this demolition occurs on the most important block in the city, the message to property owners will be clear: neglect and demolition is rewarded.
By Sean Burak
Published June 20, 2013
Let me make this clear: The city holds all of the cards in any negotiation with Wilson-Blanchard, the company that owns 22-28 King Street East and plans to demolish 24 and 28.
24 and 28 King Street East, left, will be demolished. The facade of 22, right, might be preserved under a deal with the City (RTH file photo)
We have the power, and indeed the responsibility, to respect and protect our built heritage. Yet we are bending to Wilson-Blanchard as if we do not.
The Heritage Act gives us a fantastic set of tools for dealing with these threats, if we choose to use them.
Adding buildings to the city's "inventory" is a toothless, borderline useless tool. It does not protect from demolition, it just lengthens the wait time.
What we need to do is to vote a motion for "intent to designate" under the Act. This immediately cancels pending demolitions, yet does not require a follow-through in terms of eventual designation.
In other words, it sends a message to the owner that they cannot remove the buildings and that the city won't stand for playing games. But if the developer plays nice, the actual designation does not have to occur if they do not want it.
What's the worst that can happen if we do this? There are two possible outcomes: he sells to someone who knows they have to deal with the heritage nature of the buildings appropriately, or he deals with it properly himself.
It is up to the municipality to designate. So can Council please muster up support for a proper motion that actually protects the buildings? I mean all of the buildings.
If Wilson-Blanchard wants to build a tower, they can do it on an empty lot. They already own a bunch of them.
Who does Council work for? The citizens or the developers? What benefit is it to our city to have these buildings come down before there is anything remotely resembling a plan in place?
Just to be clear, Wilson-Blanchard has no architectural drawings, no money, no investors, no tenants. They have nothing planned other than immediate removal of the buildings (and I assume, an associated tax break).
We can barely afford to let speculative demolition happen on our side streets. If it occurs on the most important block in the city, the message to property owners will be clear: neglect and demolition is rewarded. Are we prepared to risk a domino effect of falling buildings on King?
Will Council stop this needless destruction of our downtown?
Residents, business owners, tourists, families, visitors, heritage supporters, taxpayers and our very future are all depending on you taking action. The only entity that depends on Council not taking action is Wilson-Blanchard.
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