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FOCUS: Apartment plan for Huron Street meets opposition (Apr. 2020)

May 1st, 2020 · No Comments

Maintaining historical built-form at odds with need for rental units

Heritage conservation activists oppose the demolition of this classic Annex home to allow for the building of an apartment complex. TANYA IELYSEIEVA/GLEANER NEWS

By Tanya Ielyseieva

The demolition of classic Annex houses built in the late 1800’s will be required in order to build a proposed four-storey apartment building with 48 new residential units at 661-665 Huron Street. While the proposal aims to address housing affordability, it is drawing criticism from local residents and Heritage conservation advocates.

The Annex Flats would replace single-family homes at 661-665 Huron Street with  a total of 19 rental units in two buildings including 12 one-bedroom units, 6 two-bedroom units, and 1 three-bedroom unit.

“Rental accommodations are essential in attracting new, talented labour streams that contribute to a city’s upward trajectory,” says the developers, Originate Developments Inc., in a statement. “In Toronto, quality rental properties are in dramatically short supply. With Annex Flats, our vision is to address this need with personality-rich accommodations ideally suited to the area’s student and arts/culture populations.” 

Sandra Shaul, Chair of Heritage Conservation for the Annex Residents’ Association (ARA), said that the project developers first approached the ARA to collaborate on July 3, 2018. After meeting with city planners, the developer revised the project design and presented again on April 2, 2019. Several improvements had been made (circulation, parking, deliveries, unit sizes, Huron facade), but Heritage Preservation Services needed to be consulted before a formal application was made. The developer did not contact the ARA again and simply submitted a formal application on Nov. 22, 2019, according to Shaul.

“There are good ways to intensify and they require a certain amount of imagination. And there are less good ways. And I would say that this building would simply take down houses, in my opinion unnecessarily, and replace them with a building that albeit at only four storeys is still out of character with the neighborhood,” said Shaul. “But you do want to build in ways that through the massing and the height, you can create something that is new, but fits in with the rest of the streetscape and doesn’t destroy it.”

According to Shaul, the developer brought a heritage architect for an assessment of the buildings.

“They basically discounted these houses because they are not by known architects, [decided that] they’re not a special interest to the street and essentially ignored the continuity they give to a heritage streetscape,” she said.

The application to the City of Toronto states that both properties comply with the designation criteria laid out in Ontario Regulation 9/06 but states that their integrity is “degraded”. The application proposes their demolition but recommends that they are commemorated with an internal display in the new building and by a plaque on the exterior.

According to Originate Development Inc., Annex Flats will feature “an exterior of red and black brick, plus rich medium-brown wood and black stainless-steel accents, it comfortably fits within the Annex community fabric while making a distinctive architectural statement”.

“I think the developer felt that by keeping it to four storeys, which is still considerably taller than the buildings on either side. And by sloping the roof a bit, he is paying homage to the historic buildings,” said Shaul. “And that’s where we disagree.”

“Some of us have called this home for over twenty years; and we believe that it would be a shame to tear down such a unique structure, and replace with a very modern-looking complex, with much higher rents,” said Catherine Tramsek in an email to the Gleaner.

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