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City council’s decision to place a heritage designation on the Georgian Revial-style Maclean House comes too late to preserve many of its most distinctive architectural features, removed earlier by the developer
Paul Moloney & Denise Balkissoon – Yourhome.ca
Although its century-old sash window frames have already been ripped out, the John B. Maclean house will be added to Toronto’s inventory of heritage properties, city council decided Tuesday.
The unanimous vote is a move to force talks with the developer, who wants to tear down the 1910 Georgian Revival home and build eight townhouses and a rental building.
Designed by architect John Lyle, who was also behind Union Station and the Royal Alexandra Theatre, the building was already on a list of potential heritage properties when it was bought for $2.3 million in October 2008. Two permit applications by owner 1626829 Ontario Ltd. to demolish it and rebuild were turned down.
Last December, contractors tore out the windows and the portal above the front door at 7 Austin Terrace, in what the residents’ association believes was a calculated move to circumvent the designation process.
“They knew which architectural elements would be the main focus of a heritage designation,” said Dyan Kirshenbaum, vice president of the Casa Loma Residents Association. “It was ruthless, arrogant and ignorant.”
“We can’t just allow that building to be torn down,” said Councillor Joe Mihevc, who represents the area and said he hopes council’s decision will stop any further abrupt renovations.
Ideally, a deal can be reached that preserves the heritage aspects of the property while allowing the owner to redevelop it, he said.
“We hope he comes to the table and understands that this is an important part of the Toronto story that needs to be preserved,” Mihevc said Tuesday after the council vote.
“The ideal scenario would be for the developer to sit down with the city, the planners, the local councillor and the heritage preservation people and develop a plan that meets the developer’s objectives but also meets the city’s objectives,” he said.
John Todd, president of 1626829 Ontario Ltd., said his company is “considering our options.”
Council has one more final vote on the designation, before which Todd has 30 days to appeal to the Conservation Review Board. The board then makes a recommendation to council, which can choose to follow or ignore it.
Todd wouldn’t say how likely it was that he would appeal.
“It just happened today,” he said. “We’ll shed light on all the issues very shortly.”
Built for the founder of Maclean’s magazine, the dove-grey building is now a sad sight, with its windows boarded up and a chain-link perimeter in place of its original 100-year-old wrought-iron fence.
“Every day I looked at it and enjoyed it,” said Kirshenbaum, who has lived across the street for 25 years. “I was absolutely delighted to hear of council’s decision.”
Council also served notice Tuesday it will seek to designate the property under Ontario’s Heritage Act.
Even if the final vote to designate the property does pass at the city level, the developer can appeal to the OMB.