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October 17th, 2018 · No Comments

Demolition freeze for Kensington Market

By Temi Dada

In mid July, Toronto City Council voted to prevent the demolition of commercial and mixed-use buildings for one year in Kensington Market. This gives the city time to complete work on designating the market a Heritage Conservation District (HCD), and makes sure that developers don’t tear down any buildings in a bid to launch a redevelopment project before the HCD gets finalized.

“This is a significant step in our work to protect one of the most important neighbourhoods in our city,” said Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina), in a news release.

The bylaw was enacted pursuant to Section 40.1 of the Ontario Heritage Act, which gives municipalities the power to enact an HCD study area bylaw to maintain the stability and integrity of the area while the study is being undertaken.

Some believe it will also help prevent high-rises from springing up in the area bounded by College Street, Spadina Avenue, Dundas and Bathurst streets.

“It a good idea, so nobody can build high-rise buildings and we can maintain the look of old-style buildings,” said Dave Chopra, who owns Sugar & Spice, a health food store on Augusta Avenue.

“I’m okay with no high-rise buildings in Kensington Market,” said Yashar Oghabi, a storeowner in the market. “It is a national historic site and I don’t want the market to change. I think there is so much space in Toronto to do that; there is no point attacking just four blocks of space.”

According to the Parks Canada website, there are almost one thousand national historic sites in Canada, which can be in cities, in a park, or in farm country. They are sites that inform Canada’s history, its diverse cultural communities, and its Indigenous history and culture. They include sacred spaces, archaeological sites, battlefields, heritage houses, places of scientific discovery, and historic districts.

Chopra’s store has been in the market for over 25 years, and he’s watched Kensington evolve over the years from a Jewish market into a Portuguese market into a Spanish market and now a multicultural market.

“It used to be more vegetables, fruits, and people from the liberal class buying food. Now [these] yuppy restaurants [are] coming in, causing a big change in the market. There used to be fish stores, chicken stores before — you could buy a live rabbit here,” said Chopra, also highlighting the historical significance of the market.

Jack Carrusco agreed.

A market should look like a market and not a mall, said Carrusco. He’s owned Harry David Limited — also on Augusta Avenue — which sells workwear and safety boots, for over 50 years.

And that’s, of course, part of the appeal of Kensington. It’s an island of diversity, entertainment, and history nestled in the sea of corporate downtown Toronto. It’s a polarizing contrast to sleek, modern buildings with its informality, graffiti, open markets, and jumbled outdoor displays. And it’s all capped off by the scent of fresh fruit and spices.

It’s a hard atmosphere to capture, much less protect. But the city is trying. After two years of study and community consultation, the Toronto Preservation Board in 2017 endorsed a staff recommendation to designate the area an HCD. And both tangible and intangible cultural values and heritage attributes are being carefully considered.

According to Cressy, requests for residential demolitions are already subject to restrictions, per city planning restrictions, but they will be monitored and reviewed to protect residential heritage as the ongoing HCD plan progresses.



CHATTER: Kensington Market HCD enters planning phase (Nov. 2017)

NEWS: Preserving culture and history (MARCH 2017)

FORUM: Our dynamic Kensington Market (November 2016)

NEWS: Kensington Market to become heritage district (May 2016)

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