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NEWS: Kensington Market to become heritage district

May 13th, 2016 · 3 Comments

Supporters aim to protect neighbourhood’s unique character

PHOTO BY GEREMY BORDONARO: A Mona Lisa mural surveys the scene on Kensington Avenue. The market is undergoing a study to determine whether it should become a Heritage Conservation District.

PHOTO BY GEREMY BORDONARO: A Mona Lisa mural surveys the scene on Kensington Avenue. The market is undergoing a study to determine whether it should become a Heritage Conservation District.

By Geremy Bordonaro

Even in a city known for its distinctive neighbourhoods, it remains unique.

In this bustling centre, small shops, from grocery and thrift stores to restaurants, line the streets alongside hip boutiques that cater to the savviest of customers. Nary a car drives down the street, for pedestrians own the passages in this bohemian sanctuary of Kensington Market.

“We thought it was the best way to not lose the character of the community”—Su Alexanian, chair, Kensington Market Action Committee

But with the market increasingly under threat from encroaching development, the city has embarked on a study that will determine whether the area should be designated a Heritage Conservation District (HCD).

The Kensington Market BIA first proposed the approach in 2013, and those who support the designation argue that it would ensure the area’s protection for a long time to come.

“We thought it was the best way to not lose the character of the community,” said Su Alexanian, chair of the Kensington Market Action Committee (KMAC). “It’s going to be pretty unique, because unlike say Harbord [Street] (north of us), which is also a heritage district, it’s not really about the architecture in Kensington. It’s about trying to maintain a market. It’s about trying to maintain a mix of various income levels, so it doesn’t become completely and utterly gentrified. We want it to include the things that make us wonderfully and uniquely Kensington.”

Alexanian has seen the effects of not having protection over the area and some of the “ridiculous proposals” that come along.

“There’s two different owners of projects who want to rip out beautiful Victorian housing and put up a five-storey rooming house,” she said. “While we don’t mind having rooming houses, we have a lot of them, and we want people to develop things in Kensington that are respectful of the neighbourhood.”

Pouria Lotfi, a board member of the Kensington Market BIA, echoes this sentiment.

“I don’t think anyone is against new buildings,” he said in regard to the possibility of new construction in the area. “We don’t want to see mid-sized buildings here. I think it would change the structure of the neighbourhood.”

Pouria has his concerns about being able to define just what makes Kensington tick and how an HCD would cover it.

“It’s not quite clear yet. After council has approved it the city hires a consultant to conduct the study. The study determines what the shape of the HCD will be,” he said. “It could be anything. It could be based on historical value, architectural value, or social value, even the tiny little things, which I think is where the market will fall in. Somewhere like Cabbagetown, you have a lot of architectural value there…. The consultant [will have to] find out just what the heritage of Kensington is. I think it will be something less tangible.”

But Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) believes the study will help define and protect that less tangible aspect for Kensington.

“[Kensington] is a historic neighbourhood that given the pace and scale and pressure of development in downtown Toronto is under threat,” he said. “An HCD in Kensington Market doesn’t freeze the neighbourhood in time; it doesn’t prevent change. That’s not the intention. What it does is allow us to manage and guide change so that we preserve the basic historical character of a neighbourhood. And that character can be cultural just as it can be architectural.”

The city allows for certain provisions to be made around an HCD, including restrictions to building permits and height, under the borders of the district. Depending on what is determined for Kensington Market there will be rules in place to protect the area.

“Heritage Conservation Districts are an important tool that the city has to better guide and manage change while protecting the historical character of neighbourhoods,” Cressy explained. “In Ward 20, we have six heritage conservation districts. These are HCDs because these affect the local historical context.”



Kensington Market ready for action (July 2015) By Annemarie Brissenden

Community council approves Madison Avenue HCD (October 2015) By Brian Burchell and Annemarie Brissenden

Preserving a historic street (May 2015) By Annemarie Brissenden

Tags: Annex · News · History

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Greg // May 13, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    That’s great…but don’t tie it up in a sliver spoon bureaucracy and kill the spontaneity of the place…

  • 2 pat bisset // May 13, 2016 at 11:45 pm

    do not allow developers near it. heritage protection but don’t cutsie poo it like distilery district . Let it be

  • 3 Phil // May 25, 2016 at 10:48 am

    Great neighbourhood and great character, but they have to clean up the crime. It has become a terrible area for families. It has the worst per capita crime problem in Toronto and there have been some very high profile crimes occurring there over the last couple of years. They can start by driving out the drug dealers.