Plans for new Kensington Market social housing development underway as city’s heritage planners move to begin district study

5:42 p.m. Sept. 28, 2017. The Scotiabank building on the northeast corner of Dundas and Bathurst Sts. is not included in the proposed Heritage District Study.

Sept. 28, 2017

The Toronto Preservation Board endorsed city staff recommendations to move forward with a Heritage Conservation District (HCD) on Thursday. If approved at the council level the study will focus on the Kensington Market neighbourhood, defined by the boundaries of Dundas St. W., Spadina Ave., College St. and Bathurst, excluding the Scotiabank at the corner and Toronto Western Hospital.

However, according to a development application, new social housing is already underway for a property on Leonard Ave in the heritage district. The application was approved at city council in July as an Official Plan Amendment and Zoning Amendment Applications.

At the preservation board the city’s planning staff said they were authorized to move forward with the study in 2015, and held community meetings in 2016 and 2017, the most recent occurring just a week after the new development plans were submitted to the city.

Notwithstanding the proposed development, some members questioned the integrity of the proposed study.

“People think of Kensington Market as a cultural place – waves and waves of immigrants and different cultures mixing together,” said Toronto Preservation Board member Geoff Kettel at Thursday’s meeting at city hall.

“[Kensington Market is] more cultural than it is architectural; it’s all vernacular architecture,” Kettel argued. “So it leads one to question whether the traditional HCD, which is firmly rooted in architecture, is the appropriate way to go… Let’s not assume that it’s going to be an HCD, let’s look at alternatives.”

Ironically, one of the two buildings exempt from the study (the Scotiabank) is a building with large windows shaped with romantic-style arches. There was no discussion at the board of the heritage value of this particular building.

When asked about the building growth in this downtown quarter, Tamara Anson-Cartwright, program manager for Heritage Preservation Services at City of Toronto, said, “I think that’s the essence of Toronto now… nothing stops while we’re doing studies, so we have to live with that.”

Pressed further about whether it’s really possible to preserve a neighbourhood with many new developments nearby, she said, “It is possible… [It’s about] how many changes are too many…. Heritage district is about conserving what is heritage and also allowing for change, and it’s really the essence of managing change.”

“We’re now on the right path because we have endorsement to proceed to the next place.”  

City planning staff confirmed the community consultation meeting did not include information about the new housing development on Leonard Ave.