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Heritage buildings could derail Yorkville condo project

Posted by Chris Bateman / February 18, 2014

toronto york squareA plan to add a cluster of converted homes on the corner of Avenue Road and Yorkville Avenue to the city's list of heritage properties could throw a wrench in the works of a major Yorkville condo project.

Under plans currently working through the approval process, York Square, a small retail courtyard that includes two converted Victorian homes and a flat-roofed modernist block, would be demolished to make way for a 38-storey condo by Empire Communities.

Giving the York Square heritage status, a course of action supported by the Bloor-Yorkville BIA and two local residents' associations, would be the first step in refusing the project that first surfaced last year.

toronto york squareBuilt in 1968 to a design by Toronto architects A. J. Diamond and Barton Myers, the shopping centre with its distinctive circular windows was one of the city's first examples of adaptive re-use.

"York Square set an important precedent for heritage preservation before Ontario's heritage legislation existed ... maintaining existing neighbourhood scale and character in opposition to the then standard practice of demolition," a report by the city's preservation staff says.

Both homes, completed in 1912, retain their gable roofs and dormer windows on the upper floors. At street level, Diamond and Myers' modernist brick facade wraps around the street corner.

Writing in The Globe and Mail, Toronto architecture critic John Bentley Mays called York Square "an expression of patient, careful urbanism that needs to be kept intact."

The new Zeidler Partnership condo would fit snug against, and possibly share a facade with a renovated Hazelton Lanes shopping centre, according to plans made public last August.

The heritage debate is due at the March 26 meeting of the Toronto and East York Community Council.

Should the city move to protect York Square?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: City of Toronto

Discussion

23 Comments

J / February 18, 2014 at 12:28 pm
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Are we seriously considering saving buildings which actually had no interest in preserving heritage value themselves? There might be some dialogue about these being 'adaptive re-use' but really what's there is a dog's breakfast. Tear it down.
Spike / February 18, 2014 at 12:30 pm
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Good and great news; I hope that this project is completely derailed, and destroyed by this happening, and hope that the application succeeds.

Let the developers build these things in Agincourt, Willowdale, Rexdale, Malvern or anyplace else that`s newer, and leave downtown Toronto the fuck alone. We need to preserve our architectural heritage a lot more than we already do. Also and besides, we need to be building things OTHER than expensive condos anyway (affordable housing, hello?) with many of them needed in the downtown area AND suburbia ASAP.
steve / February 18, 2014 at 12:33 pm
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Since Toronto has a hate on for anything modernistic, if it was built anytime during or after mid 20th century it is fair game for destruction. What will be lost here in any attempt to preserve the buildings will be what makes this corner distinct.
Earth to J / February 18, 2014 at 12:36 pm
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J, are you seriously thinking that designation of historical status has anything to do with whether the building owner personally wants it!??! That is so naive. Most building owners do NOT want it because that would make their business transactions simpler. Therefore the City decides for them, rather than just asking what they want done.
rob replying to a comment from Spike / February 18, 2014 at 12:45 pm
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You do realize architectural heritage comes from building buildings and all old buildings at one time were new, and they most likely replaced something that was there before.
Gee / February 18, 2014 at 12:46 pm
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Just read the heritage report, and they make some interesting arguments. I've gone past that site for decades and never stopped to give it much of a look without going right past. The avenue rd side doesn't present well to pedestrians at all, people walk past without looking much, maybe glancing in the round windows. The inner courtyard area is nice, i never even knew it was there. This is the type of site that should start a conversation about how we define heritage value, and where modernism fits it.
Chester / February 18, 2014 at 01:13 pm
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Their actually trying to protect these heaps of shit. I live here there's nothing heritage about them unless you wanna save shitty 60's architecture. This is Yorkville, and money talks here they'll be demolished. People really gotta get off the condo hate without understanding the real economics and growth of his city.
Christopher King / February 18, 2014 at 01:28 pm
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IMO York Square will be destroyed to make way for these condos. There's very little reason or impetus to save this, and the City has already demonstrated it's callous disregard for historical preservation of this type of hidden secret with previous projects.
Joey / February 18, 2014 at 02:34 pm
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These buildings are ugly and a terrible example of adaptive re-use. Tear them down.
Rick / February 18, 2014 at 03:40 pm
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I'll have the final word on this; The current building has no historical value whatsoever, and architecturally looks like a half way house, soup kitchen, or a poverty motel. I say rip it down, but dont replace it with a gawd awful condo, instead build a textile factory and employ the area's oriental's to work hard day and night for minimum pay. Yes, this is the way we need to get back to in Canada - make the term "Made in Canada" mean something again.
Hope / February 18, 2014 at 05:13 pm
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People that think like Spike really bug me. Building lots of condos doesn't make Toronto accomodation more expensive it makes it less expensive. Imagine what rents in the City would be if no condos had been built to satify both ownership and rental demand - crazy high. Now imagine what rents and condo prices would be if new construction were forced to subsidize "affordable" housing- even crazier higher. Yikes - get thee to an Econ Class.
Grant / February 18, 2014 at 06:17 pm
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These buildings are not that important architecturally. Having said that, way to many buildings have quietly been knocked down in the last ten years. That must stop!! But these don't really qualify if you ask me.
Jimmy John / February 18, 2014 at 06:27 pm
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Saving/demolishing old buildings is not a black and white issue. Just because a building is old doesn't mean it should be saved. If a city keeps all their historic buildings, the city becomes a giant museum. We have to remember that a city is meant to be livable for us and for future generations. And remember that the architecture of today is the history of tomorrow. That being said, there is still a lot of historic buildings in Toronto worth saving. But dont think an old building always should be saved.
iliveattheverve / February 18, 2014 at 06:29 pm
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The Four Seasons was smart to get the heck out of that neighbourhood/corner. I must've walked past those buildings hundreds of times and not noticed the gabled roofs. why not keep those 2 facades and build a big ole tower above/behind them? step/facade 3? *sarcasm
Spike replying to a comment from Hope / February 18, 2014 at 07:28 pm
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If 'Econ Class' means building crappy buildings like these proposed condos that are cheaply made and fall apart, then I'm glad I'm not enrolled in one, then.
Spike replying to a comment from rob / February 18, 2014 at 07:44 pm
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I'm aware of that, but something as distinctive as these buildings should be preserved, otherwise we look like a city that has no history and is boring (and most of Toronto is only interesting in the downtown core-get rid of most of the buildings, and Toronto become a soulless shithole that nobody will want to visit.) There's enough land OUTSIDE of downtown to build these condos, and the companies should be building these things there.

One question that should be asked of you people who want this to happen: are all of you like Howard Roark?
VadimM / February 18, 2014 at 09:05 pm
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The heritage buildings have so much more character than the proposed podium-that is just a boring glass box.
Bongo / February 19, 2014 at 01:07 am
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I work in this space, expect big things to heritage building status in Q$.
Bongo replying to a comment from Bongo / February 19, 2014 at 01:08 am
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Q4!!! Simple typing error, meant Q4!
DL / February 19, 2014 at 08:52 am
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My parents' house in North York was built 5 years after this. Can we designate it heritage?
KG / February 19, 2014 at 08:57 am
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Let's just tear everything down and have nothing but boring glass boxes. Sure not everything is Old City Hall or New City Hall for that matter, but streets lined with unusual buildings of different types give streets character. A wall of glass boxes all concentrated here doesn't do it, but developers don't give a crap about any of that. They'd build a condo in a cemetery if they could make a buck on it.
E. Toby Coke / February 19, 2014 at 09:19 am
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50 years old is about the most challenging time in any building's life: It's old enough to be outmoded or in need of of work, yet not old enough for its significance to be obvious.

Here's the thing: Once the decision is made, I've never heard of anyone regretting SAVING an old, or even old-ish, building.

This place is absolutely representative of an era when Toronto grew up and began to think of itself differently. It'll be very interesting in a few decades.
Don / February 24, 2014 at 07:28 am
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To the people posting here looking to see York Square removed and yet have not seen this oasis on Yorkville in person, please do so when warmer weather arrives!
Enter the quiet of the court yard and enjoy an outdoor lunch (sadly the old tree died a few years back). A to-scale, smart re-use of the old Victorian structures. Check the links. We need to retain this one.
Remember Lothian Mews? Similar. People loved it too. Destroyed. Enough destruction to build another glass tower.

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