(This page is sponsored by the West Side Community Council: we thank the Ossington Community Association for hosting it for us.)
[UPDATE: West Side Community Council response to WQW HCD Study proposes more historically adequate delineation of Areas of Special Identity: Niagara, Garrison Creek–Dundas Road, Beaconsfield, and Parkdale — each expressing its distinctive cultural heritage attributes.]
Queen Street West Heritage Study: where we are now
City Planning is studying Queen St West, Bathurst–Roncesvalles (WQW), for a Heritage Conservation District (HCD), Ontario’s gold standard designation. (An HCD already applies to Queen St West, University–Bathurst; as well as to many neighbourhoods like Cabbagetown and Rosedale.)
A first draft, prepared by a private sector consultant, was released on 30 November 2016. Comments are accepted until 20 December (big thanks to Mike Layton for getting the deadline extended!). (The City page for the HCD is here.)
In a nutshell: the consultant cuts WQW into a “Trinity” half and a “Parkdale” half, at Dufferin. Trinity is then cut in half at Shaw, and Parkdale at Jameson. The eastern segments in both Trinity and Parkdale get HCDs. But the western segments are excluded: the consultant says that here, Queen Street has no heritage value. What she recommends instead would lead inexorably to high-rises, big boxes, and chain retail.
Hearing this recommendation, many people are shocked. Queen St West is world-famous because of its heritage continuity, and it creates as much pride and joy for Toronto as anywhere. It is viewed as a unified whole, and should be protected as a unified whole. Any civic-minded person can see that chopping it up to hand out fat slices to developers rates somewhere between “selling the family silver” and “wanton self-destruction”.
Share your thoughts
This form will email your thoughts about the WQW HCD draft to: Heritage Consultant Dima Cook (FGMDA Architects); City Planners Tamara Anson-Cartwright (Director of Heritage), Sharon Hong (Heritage), Pourya Nazemi (Heritage), and Graig Uens (Community Planning); and City Councillors Mike Layton (Ward 19), Ana Bailão (Ward 18) and Gord Perks (Ward 14); and to West Side CC (in order to ensure that your input is represented).
Use your own words for the greatest impact: what does Queen Street mean to you, and to Toronto? What are features to preserve, and to reinforce? How does it interact with your neighbourhood? What values would be lost if existing Victorians were torn down for big box redevelopment? What opportunities would be lost if existing parking lots were redeveloped for high-rises?
If you are stuck — or want more information —here are some talking points:
- Queen Street is the most famous and most-loved street in Toronto, earning world-wide accolades for its unbroken heritage charm and total uniqueness. It would be a shame, and an abrogation of our responsible stewardship, to preserve only some of it while big chunks are handed over to developers.
- It is a mistake to think the segments of Queen West in eastern Parkdale and eastern Trinity would have the same value without western Trinity linking them. Imagine heading west from Trinity Park, or east under the Dufferin Tunnel, and finding a boring forest of high-rise and chain retail. That would make the preserved area you just left seem like a museum relic, rather than a vital part of our experience, enriching our lives now and for the future. And the western Parkdale segment plays a similar role in linking and contextualizing Roncesvalles and eastern Parkdale. Does Parkdale come to a dead end at Jameson? Of course not. But that is how it would feel if to the west, it was redeveloped for high-rises.
- The western Parkdale and Trinity segments were built in concert with their adjacent residential neighbourhoods. As such, they are at an appropriate fit and scale, balancing and reinforcing them aesthetically, and not towering or clashing. By contrast, rebuilding with high-rises and big boxes would overshadow houses and gardens, turn laneways into loading docks, increase traffic, and project mechanical vibration. This would immediately make adjacent houses much less livable, potentially snowballing to a block-busting effect.
- The western Trinity segment intersects with Ossington, which is one of Toronto’s oldest and most historically significant streets, being defined in 1813 by Simcoe as the road west from the new capital of Ontario. Ossington already has low-rise planning protection, and has been nominated for an HCD. And the western Parkdale segment ends in a magnificent confluence with King and Roncesvalles, with rare and spectacular lake views. The interactions with Ossington and Roncesvalles enrich and contribute to the heritage value of the segments at issue, and it would diminish and disrespect those streets for Queen West to be callously “updated”.
- Cutting Trinity at Shaw is just historically ignorant. The surrounding area is defined geographically by being between Garrison Creek and the CAMH lands; and historically as the access to and environment of the Ossington Strip. If there are boundaries to the district, they are Lisgar and Gore Vale. Shaw is the eastern boundary of the CAMH lands, but that has no historical meaning. Similarly, Jameson is not any boundary between identifiable districts of Parkdale: instead, its dense population is served equally by the flanking segments of Queen West.
- It is baffling that the consultant would deny the heritage value of the western Trinity segment, which includes: nearly a hundred Victorians, including some of the best-preserved and most intact stretches on Queen Street; treasures like the Great Hall, Carnegie Library, Old Post Office, Drake, and Gladstone; and the highly historical CAMH lands. The western Parkdale segment is also full of distinctive and interesting old buildings, which fit together harmoniously and clearly communicate their heritage value.
- What the consultant recommends combines spot-designation of individual buildings, together with a quasi-regulation called the Avenues and Mid-Rise Buildings Study. But spot-designation cannot control redevelopment of undesignated buildings or lots. And the AMRBS, as the name suggests, is about how to get “mid-rise” (6 to 13 storey) buildings onto “Avenues” (a category from planning-speak that in our experience is systematically misused by developers).