In consideration of everything that has played out to date, to turn the tables and stray from the commitments made by both sides would be disingenuous at this stage.
By Jason Farr
Published August 11, 2013
With respect to the suggestion that City Council should step up and designate 18-28 King Street East under the Ontario Heritage Act, I would share that it has been through a series of meetings and compromises and community input over many months that we have reached this point with the building's owners.
Throughout, many of my colleagues are often asking me for progress reports, offering their thoughts and supporting Councillor Brian McHattie and me on the issue. They are regularly apprised and sympathetic to this difficult issue.
We began with a desire from the owners to tear everything down. Then, after my pleas representing the desires of many, the owners agreed to keep the Kerr building (18-22) up and demolish 24 and 28.
More recently, discussions have resulted in maintaining the historical facade elements of all existing addresses and building modern behind, as part of a future bigger development plan that includes building on a current surface parking lot behind as another phase.
This discussion continues to evolve amicably and includes staff from Economic Development, Urban Renewal, Building, the City Manager's office and most importantly, Heritage Planning.
While, as Councillor McHattie has noted, this may not be the optimal outcome, it is one that may still see the heritage designation on all facades, while also achieving the owner's development desires for residential commercial development.
From the articles and comments in Raise the Hammer and a series of emails to our Ward 2 office, I am well aware this is an unsatisfactory objective to some and must admit it would be spectacular if these developers and others throughout our core and city would always move toward a full-fledged approach to designation and restoration. Absolutely.
However, as compromise in this case we are working together to achieve both preservation of our Gore wall while also bringing more investment to our core.
While this issue has publicly played out, Council has made some significant progress on the downtown built heritage issue. We have begun the public conversation on our heritage inventory with two workshops at LIUNA Station.
This input will make up part of the downtown inventory report coming to Council in the fourth quarter of this year and comes as a result of Council's request to do so.
Also, a few weeks ago we put all the Gore buildings that met at least one of the four heritage criteria on the city's register of properties of cultural heritage value or interest. This comes well in advance of the report due by year's end and again, as requested by Council.
Gore property owners have been notified of this. As the Gore properties are concerned, for future, there will not be a repeat of the current issue as now we will see a 60-day commenting period and Council comment before a demolition permit is (or is not) issued, instead of the 20 days otherwise.
Back to the issue at hand. These conversations have been primarily on good faith from both sides. We are headed in a direction where it will be more than that.
As part of the community input on the issue, it has become very clear that we need more than just ideas and table napkin drawings, given the significance of area as it relates to our city's great character. Clear and definitive outlines are on the way.
The building owners have said the site plan proposal for 18-28 is progressing and they will be meeting again soon with Heritage Planning staff to officially put the documents together that will allow for heritage designation of all the facade elements worthy as determined by Heritage Planning.
The conversation continues to involve a designation process very similar to that of the Thomas Building north of Lister, where the heritage elements are dismantled, labeled, stored in a secure/heated environment and then re-fastened once the build is good to go. All parties have a profound desire to do this in an expeditious fashion.
All of this said, and in consideration of everything that has played out to date, to turn the tables and stray from the commitments made by both sides and formulating a Council motion for something other would be, in my view, disingenuous at this stage.
Again, I am well aware that this is not the optimum outcome as some heritage advocates are concerned. However, as a compromise and in consideration of what could have been when the demolition permits were lawfully applied for and received, it is at least better than what was originally planned for.
Thank you again to everyone who has taken the time in communicating your thoughts and concerns on this important issue.
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