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Yonge Street between Bloor & College set to become Historic Conservation District

Grungy and greasy in spots, charming in others, Yonge Street between Bloor and College streets has a tremendous amount of history if you look closely enough.

This spring, City Council will consider a motion to designate that stretch of Toronto’s main street as Historic Yonge Street Heritage Conservation District, which would set out a plan to preserve the look and feel of the area and restrict what many property owners can change about their buildings. Considering the number of developments in progress and proposed for this part of downtown, the designation could have interesting implications.

“A Heritage Conservation District is a planning tool that municipalities use to manage and guide change. It isn’t about freezing a neighbourhood,” says Tamara Anson-Cartwright, program manager of Heritage Preservation Services with the city’s planning department. “The reality is that Yonge Street has a very a dynamic history. This plan recognizes it’s not just about the Victoria buildings, but about the evolution of Yonge Street until the 1960s.”

A draft plan, released in January, was prompted when the Bay Cloverhill Community Association and the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association nominated the area as a Historic Conservation District (HCD). The plan, likely what council will vote on, states that this part of Yonge Street is “valued for its commercial main street character which is expressed, in part, by mixed-use and commercial buildings that housed the services, amenities, and employment opportunities to support daily life in neighbouring residential areas. St. Nicholas Village, and the residential buildings within it, reflects this historic relationship and reinforces [the area’s] sense of place.”

The plan also sets out guidelines for buildings that are listed as contributing to the area’s character. Additions, alterations, maintenance and repair work could only be undertaken after the impact on the area is considered. Contributing façades would have be be preserved. Demolition or removal of buildings or structures on contributing properties would not be permitted and new construction would have to reflect the height and massing of the existing building stock.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Tamara Anson-Cartwright
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