Thursday, February 2, 2017

Mimico - Judson Regeneration Areas Study - Heritage Buildings Demolished

I have struggled to write a posting for this as it was such a disaster for built heritage.

So lets start from the beginning.  In December of 2013 Toronto City Council adopted an official plan amendment proposing to redesignate the lands near the Mimico GO Station and a portion of lands to the west of Royal York Road as "Regeneration Areas".

Council directed staff to begin a study of the Mimico-Judson Regeneration Area to provide for a plan for its revitalization.

As part of the planning process I identified two properties that I felt warranted further study for their heritage potential.  In the end both would be demolished.

I identified the buildings at 49 and 53 Judson Street (Dominion Abrasive Wheel Grinding Company Complex) and 1 Audley Street (Mitchell and Dorst Building - though best known as the Schindler Company of Canada Building).  

As part of their work the city's consultants, as well as city staff, concurred and identified both historical industrial properties as being "character" buildings potentially worthy of protection and preservation in their planning documents. 

Despite this the owner/developer of 49 and 53 Judson Street (Dunpar Homes) applied for and was granted a demolition permit on December 11, 2015.  The buildings were demolished in early 2016.  How did this happen?   Well, unlike residential buildings, demolition permits for commercial/industrial buildings are dealt with administratively by city staff and do not require approval from Community Councils.  When reviewing applications for demolition city staff check the heritage registry to see if the building is listed or designated.  Since the buildings on Judson had not yet been investigated for heritage potential (though there was a clear planning intent that the city would) they were not on the heritage registry and so there was no impediment to city staff in issuing the demolition permit.   The permit was issued and the owner demolished the buildings.

Shockingly the same thing happened for the Mitchell and Dorst Building at 1 Audley Street.  Again, despite the clear planning intent in all of the documents related to planning for this area, Freed Developments purchased the property in the summer of 2016, and then applied for a demolition permit.  Since the same circumstances were in place city staff had no option but to issue the demolition permit and did so on September 12, 2016.  Heritage staff at the city of Toronto this time were alerted and prioritized research on the property and made plans to bring a report forward to the next Toronto Preservation Board meeting scheduled for September 28, 2016.   However, it was too late.  With their demolition permit in hand Freed began demolition on the day of the meeting.  The Toronto Preservation Board adopted the report but by then there was nothing left to preserve.  

The lesson from all this?  When it comes to potential heritage resources identified in secondary plans and other planning documents in this city, especially if the buildings are not residential, it is critical that they be put on the city's heritage inventory as "listed" buildings as soon as possible in order to safeguard any issuance of demolition permits and give city staff time to assess the building to determine if it merits designation under the Ontario Heritage Act. 

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