first parliament

Ontario plans to redevelop another Toronto heritage site without proper consult

In the midst of the controversy surrounding the Dominion Foundry Complex, a set of buildings from the early 1900s that the Province of Ontario is currently demolishing despite outcry from the public and City officials, the government is eyeing yet another historic site for redevelopment.

A plot of land at the corner of Front and Parliament Streets is next on Premier Doug Ford's list of properties to acquire for construction with a Ministrial Zoning Order, which permits the province to sidestep normal processes usually involved in developments, including consulting the public and the City itself.

The property was the location of the first parliament buildings of Upper Canada, which were constructed there a staggering 223 years ago.

As the City itself notes, "the site saw the formation and governance of Upper Canada, the beginnings of a united Canada, and the growth of the City into an industrial and diverse region on both a provincial and national scale."

As a heritage plaque on the site notes, the buildings were burnt down and reconstructed numerous times over the years before being eventually abandoned in the 1830s, then converted into a jail, and then a plant for The Consumers' Gas Company in the late 1800s.

The block is now public land with noted archeological heritage, and there are plans in the works to convert it for community use with a library, green space and more.

But, Ford's acquisition of the site would mean it would be the home of a new station for Metrolinx's Ontario Line subway, to be completed in 2030. Per The Star, specifically 25 Berkeley Street and 271 Front St. E are set to be taken over for the forthcoming Corktown station.

"Last year, we learned that the Province's Ontario Line project would place a subway station in the vicinity of the site," Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York City Councillor Joe Cressy notes in a statement on the subject in which he notes Metrolinx was only supposed to use the First Parliament site temporarily during construction.

"The notice of expropriation by the Province to take permanent ownership of the site now raises serious concerns for the planned public uses for the site, including critical community facilities such as the district library. Successful city-building requires collaboration between government partners, working together on shared objectives."

Ford's administration has been heavy-handed with MZOs lately, employing them to get condos up faster and with less red tape and to raze land in order to make it more appealing to future developers, as is the case with the Foundry property.

Though residents and local politicans can usually question or petition forthcoming developments in the city during consultation periods, they will not be given the chance to do so in these cases.

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