Stalled Progress or Smart Preservation?
On November 5, 2013, the Toronto Preservation Board (“TRB”) deferred its decision regarding the demolition of four Designated Heritage Properties located at 266, 276, 284, and 322 King Street West.
Proposed for the site where the heritage properties currently stand is the much publicized Mirvish+Gehry Toronto project – a mixed-use development comprised of three supertall towers reaching 82, 84, and, 86 storeys.
Though not necessarily remarkable, the Designated Heritage Properties – all early 20th Century warehouse buildings – are considered to be prime examples of King West’s manufacturing history and an important part of Toronto’s architectural and built form heritage.
The Mirvish+Gehry project team supports demolishing the warehouses in favour of what will be, in the words of the developer’s heritage report, “an iconic landmark of international significance, enhancing downtown Toronto and its skyline”. On the contrary, the City’s Acting Director of Urban Design, submitted to the TRB, that the City does not consider the demolitions of the designated buildings as reasonable and preferred if the existing structures were incorporated into the Mirvish+Gehry design.
It is important to consider that policy directions in the PPS and Growth Plan support intensification, optimisation, making efficient use of existing and planned infrastructure, facilitating transit-supportive development and compact form.
At first glance, smart growth principles and the preservation of Toronto’s heritage seem to represent competing interests. Consequently, as Toronto continues to age and physical space becomes more of a premium, the spotlight on heritage invariably will increase. The City’s eventual determination on the Mirvish+Gehry project could serve as a benchmark precedent on the direction of new development in Toronto’s constrained historic districts going forward.
Toronto and East York Community Council will consider the matter at its meeting on Tuesday, November 19.
By: Jason Lewis