| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Development News

New ED looking to give Heritage Toronto a higher profile

Heritage Toronto unveils its first plaque of 2015 on Chinese New Year's Day (February 19) at the Wong Association of Ontario.

In the two months since he started his job as the executive director of Heritage Toronto, Francisco Alvarez has realized that the organization is a little misunderstood. Created in 1998 as a successor to the Toronto Historical Board, the arms-length city agency isn’t actually responsible for preserving and protecting historic properties. That’s the job of the city planning department.
“But a lot of people call here and ask how they prevent the demolition of this building or that building, or how they can have their home listed as a heritage property–and we have to constantly refer them back to the city planning department,” says Alvarez, who replaced Karen Carter, who is now ED at Museum of Toronto. “They have a huge backlog there, so people don’t get the answer they’re looking for very quickly.”
Instead, Heritage Toronto focuses on public programming, education and the promotion of heritage, particularly through its heritage walks program, heritage plaques and markers, and the Toronto Heritage Awards. Although Toronto is relatively young and lost many of its fine historic buildings in the careless 1960s and ’70s, Alvarez would like heritage to play a bigger part in the city’s tourism promotion. And it’s not just about beautiful buildings.
“Of course, a lot of the history that happened here before Toronto was established can be better told to visitors,” says Alvarez, who was most recently managing director of the Royal Ontario Museum’s Institute for Contemporary Culture. “For example, many of the roads that don’t fit into the grid like Dundas and Davenport were actually Aboriginal trails. The whole network of creeks, rivers and ravines are interesting forces in shaping the city that visitors would find interesting.”
Alvarez would also like to better showcase Toronto’s cultural heritage—the stories of the people who live and work here but often come from elsewhere. If the agency is able to raise more funds from sponsors, foundations and other funders (less than half its budget is covered by the city), technology will play a bigger part in drawing people’s attention to Toronto’s architectural, archaeological, cultural and natural history.
“Plaques are great, but they’re very static. I’d love to look at things like virtual reality to tell a heritage story with new tools.”
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Francisco Alvarez
Signup for Email Alerts
Signup for Email Alerts

Related Content