It is past time for Council to stop this demolition and start exercising its legitimate civic powers before yet another property speculator destroys yet another irreplaceable part of the City's built fabric.
By Ryan McGreal
Published July 19, 2013
this article has been updated
Today, Wilson-Blanchard has begun to demolish the buildings at 18-28 King Street East. The east-west alleyway that runs behind the buildings is fenced off and an excavator is in place to begin demolishing the buildings.
Fencing, a fuel tank and an excavator behind 18-28 King Street East (Image Credit: Eric McGuinness)
Fencing, equipment behind 18-28 King Street East (Image Credit: Eric McGuinness)
Just a week ago, David Blanchard agreed to hold off on demolition in an attempt to reach a compromise with the City to preserve some or all of the heritage features of the buildings, which date from the 1840s and 1870s.
Now Wilson-Blanchard representative Robert Miles is claiming that the agreement only applied to the facades, and that the company is honouring the agreement by dismantling the facades by hand and saving the bricks.
Wilson-Blanchard and the City also agreed that the City would conduct an independent audit of an engineering report the property owner had prepared for the buildings. It is not clear whether the demolition of the rear portions of the buildings will render the facades and front portions structurally unstable.
City staff recognize the heritage value of these buildings but they are not designated under the Ontario Heritage Act. As always, Council has the legal power to protect the buildings from demolition by issuing an intent to designate them under the Act.
Until now, however, Council has been deeply reluctant to exercise this power, despite the proven economic and social value of heritage preservation.
The Ontario Minister of Tourism and Culture, Michael Chan, can also intervene to stop the demolition (as previous culture minister Caroline DiCocco intervened to save the Lister Building from Council's short-sightedness). However, despite being asked to get involved, Minister Chan has not taken action.
Wilson-Blanchard does not have a plan to redevelop the properties it has assembled on the block bounded by James, King, Hughson and Main Streets over the past two decades.
This is beyond outrageous. It is past time for City Council to call an emergency session, stop this demolition and start exercising its legitimate civic powers before yet another property speculator destroys yet another irreplaceable part of the City's built fabric.
Update: Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie and Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr have called an emergency meeting with Wilson-Blanchard at 3:00 PM today, and will provide an update after the meeting.
Update 2: The demolition has been put on hold again. Please see the follow-up article explaining the details.
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