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LRT condos would help Bayview survive

Geoff Kettel made a compelling case in his September Saving Old Leaside column about why the quadraplexes running along the east side of Bayview south of Eglinton to Parkhurst deserve to be designated heritage  properties by the city.

This wasn’t the first time he’s made an argument for saving the apartments built by onetime Leaside mayor Henry Howard Talbot.

Kettel’s own presentation in 2011 to the City of Toronto noted that a property could be designated heritage according to the Ontario Heritage Act if it possessed one of three criteria: design value, historic value or contextual value. And you only need one, not all three.

As someone who lives in one of the two-bedroom apartments on Bayview, right in the heart of the quadraplexes, I cherish the space my wife and I occupy with several cats. To buy the comparable amount of space in a single dwelling in the neighbourhood would cost upwards of a million dollars, an investment we’re simply not prepared to make at this juncture in our lives. The last thing we’d like to see for this stretch of real estate is for it to be turned into mixed-use development because to do so would mean our displacement from a home we’ve happily enjoyed for the last six years.

But alas this column is about the business of Leaside and in that respect I’m both a realist and an advocate for positive change.

I would be a hypocrite if I argued in favour of certain commercial developments throughout Leaside – at various times in the past I’ve gone to bat for proposed developments at Brentcliffe and Eglinton, Sunnybrook Plaza, the mixed-use proposal on the west side of Bayview directly across from Remax and the list goes on – but opposed development of land that lies within 250 metres of the secondary LRT station that will be built at McDonald’s.

Kettel’s latest call to designate the properties south of McDonald’s as heritage apparently comes as a result of concerns from residents in rental properties closest to the Golden Arches. So let’s look at the three criteria for such a designation.

Design value: Kettel points to the Georgian Revival style of the quadraplexes referencing a 2009 OMB hearing at which a Toronto city planner suggested they “extend the domestic appearance of the neighbourhood’s single-detached houses… out to Bay-view”. While that’s a nice sentiment, if you’ve been anywhere near many of these buildings in recent years you’ll know that they’re no longer vintage 1934 and quite rough around the edges.

Historic value: Built three years before Henry Talbot would become mayor of Leaside, it’s true that these buildings hold some historical relevance. But enough for the heritage designation?  If Talbot had lived in one of them you might have an argument.

Contextual value: In Kettel’s presentation to the city he quotes Charles Clay in The Leaside Story who wrote, “Leaside is rich in homes – they are the heart of Leaside – they take two forms, houses and apartment suites, and houses predominate.”  Contextually, Clay argues that houses predominate here in Leaside; I doubt the LPOA would disagree.

In my opinion Kettel’s arguments do not meet any of the criteria mentioned in the Ontario Heritage Act. I confess I’m not a heritage expert or even an architect or builder. Rather I’m a realist who sees Leaside’s growth as both inevitable and necessary in order for Bayview businesses to survive and thrive.

In a city the size of Toronto it’s nonsensical to leave a prime intersection such as Bayview and Eglinton as it existed almost 80 years ago. Heritage is important but not at the expense of progress. We might live in an oasis but we’re still part of a thriving metropolis. Leaside can maintain its single-dwelling predominance while still accommodating other types of residential and commercial development in appropriate locations. It’s the sign of a healthy community.

Leaside is a nice place to live. If I have to move because the quadraplexes are developed I’ll still feel the same way about my community. I don’t need heritage designations to feel good about where I live but a shopping district lacking vitality just might change my mind.