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Bayview properties up for heritage listing

Example of Bayview/Leaside buildings in line for heritage listing.

Example of Bayview/Leaside buildings in line for heritage listing.

Forty-three Bayview commercial properties, including 31 on the east (Leaside) side and 12 on the west (Davisville) side are recommended for listing under the Ontario Heritage Act. City Council will decide on October 2nd. Really! Accustomed as we are to hearing about heritage losses through “as of right” demolition, such as at Stollery’s (Bloor and Yonge) and the BMO Bank building at 2444 Yonge St., this seems like a breakthrough. But what does “listing” accomplish Will affected property owners lose their right to make changes to their properties?

Listing simply means placing the address on the city’s Register of Heritage Properties, so that if a demolition permit is received, the City has 60 days to assess the heritage values and seek approval from City Council for heritage designation if it meets the criteria under the Ontario Heritage Act. The property’s design (architectural), associative (with persons, or events) and contextual values are assessed. Unlike listing, “designation” does have legal implications and notice is placed on title. Generally, properties are not designated until there is a development application, so in practice designation allows the City to have a greater say in how a property is redeveloped, maintaining the look of the street, for example.

So what about Bayview’s 43 properties? It appears that about one-third of their footprint (area) on the east side and under one-fifth on the west side is included. So while the first Leaside library (at 1645 Bayview, now The Chocolate Messenger) is included, the former Bayview theatre (now Shoppers Drugmart) is not.

Example of Bayview/Leaside buildings in line for heritage listing.

Example of Bayview/Leaside buildings in line for heritage listing.

How did the City decide which properties to include? With the exception of the east side of Bayview, the properties are all within the area of the Midtown in Focus planning study, which has been going on for about two years. This covers a large area from west of Avenue Road to Bayview, and from Blythwood to Moore Ave. This study for the first time included a heritage assessment. The public meetings held in conjunction with Midtown in Focus confirmed strong public interest and support for preservation of the character of the main streets (“villages”). As Sharon Mourer of the South Eglinton Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (SERRA) said at Planning and Growth Committee, “We kept on asking, where is the heritage?” Batch listing to allow prior assessment in case of demolition is a new way of ensuring this.

What are Bayview businesses’ reactions to the listing proposal? I talked to Trae Zammit, chair of the Bayview-Leaside BIA and owner of The Smokin’ Cigar at 1540 Bayview (which is included in the listing). He felt he could not comment for the BIA at this time, he hadn’t formed an opinion yet, but so far listing has not been a big issue for the BIA. More information is needed at the level of the individual owner, he added. His overall goal for the street is to “work for what is good for business,” and right now the BIA is focused on the new streetscape plan to be released later this fall.

Listing does not have dire consequences for businesses, and may actually work in sync with the desire of the BIA to create a place that people love to visit, spend time and money. Streetscape enhancement and heritage protection may in fact be complementary. And importantly, listing may prevent more of the “as of right” demolitions of commercial properties with cultural heritage value and interest that have offended residents across the city.