Friday, November 10, 2017

The Point of Heritage Conservation Districts



467-469 Dufferin Avenue may not look newsworthy. But another London heritage battle is looming over this one-storey vinyl-sided building on the south side of Dufferin between Maitland and Colborne. Marigold Homes wants to replace it with a 3 1/2 storey apartment building with 12 "microsuites." According to a Free Press article, the owner, Ben Lansink, thinks it's "awful looking" and "beyond repair." Of course, he's let it deteriorate to its current condition himself. He also claims the design for the new building will "fit in" with the historic neighbourhood, although no new design is going to fit in like the real historic building that's already there. 

The issue is not whether there could be a demand for microsuites, or tiny apartments, in the core. I'll bet there is. But the place for them is not on the site of what may very well be one of the oldest buildings in London.

This may be one of the original British military barracks buildings, moved here about the time the military base closed to become Victoria Park. City records show the building has been on this site since 1874, coincidentally the year the barracks buildings were sold to be moved elsewhere. The building might date to as early as the 1840s but, of course, without a detailed inspection of the interior it's difficult to say for sure. Furthermore, 467 was the first office of the London District Trades and Labour Council as indicated by old city directories. 

This is West Woodfield Conservation District. The point of conservation districts is to conserve heritage. There isn't much point in creating Heritage Conservation Districts (HCDs) if the city is going to allow property owners to demolish the buildings within. Make changes to buildings, yes. Create sympathetic additions, fine. But not demolish the oldest, most historic structures we have.

Let's hope the city agrees the microsuites should be built elsewhere. Otherwise, we have a precedent for the further erosion of the heritage resources within Woodfield. Once this building comes down, why not others?

Update, December 2017: The city's Planning and Environment Committee (PEC) has turned down Marigold's request to build microsuite apartments on this site. Not because PEC thinks the building is worth saving but because the planned apartments would create too much intensification in the area. While the decision saves 467-469 Dufferin for now, how much longer will it be allowed to deteriorate?

Update, January 2018: Once again PEC has turned down Marigold's demolition request. Stay tuned.


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