ABCRA provides comments to the City’s Bloor Yorkville Heritage Assessment

City of Toronto Heritage Planning utilizes Cultural Heritage Resource Assessments (CHRAs) to document and analyze an area’s history and ensure that properties of potential cultural heritage value or interest are appropriately identified, understood and conserved. Read our submission to the City (below), providing input and recommendations for the CHRA field study of the Bloor-Yorkville/North Midtown Area. 

To: Shelby Blundell, Ellen Kowalchuk and Gary Miedema,

Dear Shelby, Gary, and Ellen,

As you are aware, the ABC Residents Association is a volunteer organization that works on enhancing the quality of life in our neighbourhood through active participation in municipal issues. ABCRA is committed to preserving and enhancing the rich heritage and character of our neighbourhood and we are thrilled that the City has undertaken this Cultural Heritage Resource Assessment (CHRA) as a first step in a long overdue planning process that will finally result in a Secondary Plan for the Bloor-Yorkville/North Midtown planning district. We are pleased to participate in this ongoing work via the Heritage Focus Group and we applaud the recognition that the work of identifying potential heritage properties has often been informed through community consultation and stakeholder engagement. We believe that our knowledge of our area’s development history can assist in helping to shape a historical overview of our neighbourhood since, through our membership, ABCRA has a good understanding of what the community believes to be of heritage value.

The ABCRA Residents Association has also provided the story of Ramsden Park to support our recommendation that the Park must be included in the CHRA to be reviewed for designation as a Cultural Heritage Landscape (CHL). The Provincial Policy Statement (2005) defines a CHL as a geographical area of heritage significance which has been modified by human activities and is valued by a community. You will find in our submission evidence of the area’s value and positive impact to the quality of life of past and present Torontonians and the residents’ demonstrated pride and stewardship of what is now Ramsden Park.

The stated purpose of the CHRA is to inform the planning policies and guidelines that will be developed during the forthcoming Bloor-Yorkville/North Midtown Secondary Plan study. That more comprehensive planning process will include the Neighbourhood designations under the Official Plan in addition to the Mixed-use Areas. Although we understand that the CHRA does not intend to inventory the buildings on the neighbourhood streets that are not mixed-use, we nevertheless believe it is essential that their existence be acknowledged by including them in the Cultural Heritage Resource Assessment because heritage properties support each other within communities that respect the proximity of residential and mixed-use areas. Hence, all the listed and designated buildings in the area need to be shown and labelled on all maps. This includes the boundaries of the Yorkville Hazelton Heritage Conservation District Report which is one of the older residential areas of the City, with a rich cultural history and a recognizable architecture preserved in the central downtown.

We also note that the Themes of the CHRA include the “Residential development” so we expect that the general history and colourful stories of the neighbourhood will be further researched and included in the CHRA to inform the Heritage section and polices and guidelines of the new Bloor-Yorkville/North Midtown Secondary Plan and to ensure that the low-rise residential architecture remains an integral part of the future.

This submission as well as the ABCRA attached submission for the inclusion of Ramsden Park in the CHRA will provide material to inform the CHRA field study of the Bloor-Yorkville/North Midtown Area. We would like to know if after reading our Ramsden Park submission if it will be assessed.

A few specifics to help complete the picture:

Please note that the intention of this section is to highlight some commonly overlooked properties of interest that we believe deserve inclusion in this report and subsequent protection from insensitive development. The list is not exhaustive, nor does its order reflect an assertion of relative value, but it draws on the knowledge of ABCRA’s members of the history of the study area to inform our recommendations.

Yorkville Village

The older part of Yorkville – the still low-rise historic Yorkville Village – has thankfully had the benefit of many studies, and its history and the surviving buildings are well documented. ABCRA notes with appreciation the Yorkville BIA’s submission of Suggested Heritage Locations that need to be inventoried and designated for protection. Time is of the essence to protect these remaining Heritage buildings in Yorkville Village. For example, Trattoria Nervosa (75 Yorkville Avenue), a fine example of Victorian residential architecture, is threatened by a recent development proposal which would add height and density that will completely dwarf the original structure and diminish its historical presence. Heritage and Planning Polices are required to protect this and the other remaining heritage building in this area that is one of Toronto’s most popular tourist destinations.

We support the Greater Yorkville Residents Association’s (GYRA) suggestion that the historic Village of Yorkville – Yorkville Avenue, Cumberland Street and Scollard – be nominated as a Heritage Conservation District. It most certainly meets the criteria of Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act giving municipalities the ability to designate Heritage Conservation Districts where an area’s cultural heritage value contributes to a sense of place extending beyond their individual buildings, structures, and landscapes.

We also suggest the new zoning placed on the Yorkville Village area be reviewed. We are concerned that the setback and height limitations may be too lenient to retain the historic character that provides the relief of a human-scale oasis at the centre of our downtown, and its unique character that makes Yorkville Village an important cultural contribution to the City of Toronto.

North of Scollard

The following is some information for areas outside the south section of Yorkville that are not as well documented. We have been assured that the areas of Asquith Collier, east of Yonge and the area north of Scollard will be the subject of study by the Common Bond Collective to bring a better balance to the history of the entire historic Yorkville area. We trust that the Common Bond Collective professionals will apply their expertise to carefully identify and evaluate all heritage assets. We provide here some information and reports that may inform the Common Bond Collective’s research.

The Sheppard Heritage Conservation District Study researched and written by the Community History Project and submitted to the City in April 1999. This report was written to encourage the HCD designation of the enclave of Belmont Street and Hillsboro Avenue for study as a Heritage Conservation District (see below for recent update). It should be consulted for its history of the broader area, with fascinating information about the location of the Magdalen Asylum, about the “instant slum” built by Alderman John Bugg in 1875, etc.

Ramsden Park Planning Precinct (North Yonge Street)

The short section of Yonge Street between Ramsden Park and the CPR Railway tracks has 28 heritage- listed buildings, 13 of which are designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act. These buildings contribute to a heritage character, often of an intact row, that should be protected and enhanced by protecting the mixed-use buildings on Yonge Street with heritage designation and planning policies to protect this main street. The aforementioned Community History Project notes alongside the 1860 Tremaine Map of York County that Yorkville includes “Both sides of Yonge street built up as far north as Roxborough or Macpherson.”

In this regard we draw your attention to ERA’s Heritage Impact Assessment for 1140- 1134 Yonge Street available on the City’s Development Application Information Centre’s on-line database. This report provides excellent information and images of a northeast section of the Study area. It will be a valuable resource to add to Common Bond’s research for North Yonge Street. This report also includes some information about the area’s residential neighbourhoods on pages 11 and 12.

By 1876, the area encompassing the Development Site had been subdivided into residential building lots, Marlborough Avenue had also been surveyed (Fig. 17). At this time, there were approximately fourteen residential dwellings on Marlborough, along with a handful of commercial buildings on Yonge Street to the north of the Development Site. In 1883, the Village of Yorkville was annexed by the City of Toronto.

It further notes information about the first residential Subdivision in early Toronto

Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, numerous dwellings were constructed on the residential streets to the west of Yonge Street, including Marlborough and Macpherson Avenues, along with Price Street to the east of Yonge Street. During the same period, a number of extant commercial blocks were developed on both sides of Yonge Street north of Macpherson Avenue.

In 1891, Sir David Macpherson subdivided part of his estate known as Chestnut Park for residential building lots. The estate was located on the east side of Yonge Street south of Macpherson.

The history of the Pierce Arrow building at the corner of Yonge and Marlborough, and the subject of the ERA Heritage impact noted above, also provides an addition for the Themes of Art and Entertainment. This building was a complement to the rich culture of the coffee houses in the south section of Yorkville that made Toronto a centre for music from the late 1950s through the 1970s, the north section of Yorkville made Toronto a centre for our television culture. Between 1953 and 1995 the now recently closed Staples building at 1140 Yonge Street was for more than forty years a cultural centre as a CBC television studio where such long-running shows as the Wayne and Shuster Hour, Mr. Dressup, the Tommy Hunter Show, and Front-Page Challenge were produced. The architectural oval arches featured portraits of Pierre Berton, Fred Davis, and Betty Kennedy, our cultural icons, with weekly guests like Eleanor Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway, and Errol Flynn. Though the portraits are now painted over in red and white, the oval arches are still preserved, and the building is now proposed to be re-modelled for a condo tower, retaining the oval arches.

The Rear Wall and Industrial Chimney of 1140 Yonge Street

The photo shows the rear side wall of the listed Pierce Arrow building that can be viewed from the lane near the corner of Yonge and Macpherson. The building is under an application for re-development and the subject of the ERA report mentioned above. The report does not mention this wall and it appears that the intent is to demolish it. In the opinion of ABCRA and the local residents it should also be preserved. It is a fine example of our industrial heritage and provides an important use today as a visual and noise barrier from the commercial mixed-use functions at 1140 Yonge Street. It was built from the yellow brick like that made at the Ramsden Park brick yard.

OVERDUE: Belmont-Hillsboro Heritage Conservation Study TE17.33

The enclave of Belmont Street and Hillsboro Avenue was nominated for study as a Heritage Conservation District by the Belmont-Hillsboro Heritage Interest Group in a submission to Heritage Preservation Services (HPS) on March 27, 2015. In July of 2016, City Council authorized a study, but it has not been completed. The total number of properties in the nominated area is 74. ABCRA has been advised by the Belmont-Hillsboro Heritage Interest group that they were told by Toronto Heritage staff that, like the 1999 request for designating the same area, the new study has been postponed pending the SASP 211 secondary plan review. According to the Staff report on this item, the nominated area comprises the central portion of the Ramsden Park neighbourhood, a central part of the Yorkville area.

ABCRA is requesting an update on the status of the residential portion of this study and request this study for an HCD be given priority. The area includes the Ramsden Public Works north of Belmont Street and south of Ramsden Park.

Ramsden Park and The Ramsden Park Works Yards

These areas were important sites for the brick-making that served the construction of our City and now preserve rare examples of Art Deco architecture in our City. The Works Yards have now been included on the CHRA study. The area has been chosen as the site for a new area community centre which could provide the opportunity to integrate the old building with the new.

Davenport Terrace

(North side of Davenport Road between Hillsboro and Avenue Road)

This area is shaded for mixed-use, and thus needs special protection, for it is a fine example of an intact terrace row of low-rise heritage buildings that have preserved their Victorian character.

Rosedale Subway Station

A “classic open-air station” allowing nature to be enjoyed from both platforms, Rosedale Subway Station is part of the Budd Sugarman Park to its south and is one of the “sleepiest” stops on the Yonge line. It was designed in 1947 by John B. Parkin and opened on March 30th, 1954 under the name ‘Crescent’ as one of the stations on the original Yonge Subway line. It was designated a Part IV Heritage Structure in 1990. This TTC building and surrounding land need to be protected from development.

Hazelton Lanes now called Yorkville Village (55 Avenue Road)

This high-end mini-mall, which opened in 1975, was the brainchild of Ian Richard Wookey, and French grain merchant William Louis-Dreyfus. As its opening preceded that of the Eaton Centre, it was able to secure more upscale retailers than it would have otherwise. Along with the much-loved winter skating rink in its central courtyard, the first stores to service its well-heeled clientele were Courregès, Hermès, Roots and Ralph Lauren.

It was significantly expanded in 1988 by adding the 87 Avenue Road building and many more luxury brands. Unfortunately, it was hit hard by the recession in the early 1990s and many of the upscale stores closed and ultimately moved to the Mink Mile along Bloor. Many shoppers, however, have happy memories of Hazelton Lanes as the destination for elegant retail therapy in the 70s and 80s, refusing to refer to it under its current moniker “Yorkville Village.”

Over the Rainbow (101 Yorkville Avenue)

Founded by Joel Carman (a former taxi driver) in 1975, this was one of the first shops to market denim to women and capitalized on the growing popularity of jeans as a fashion statement. For over 44 years it was the destination for denim for many and a Yorkville institution before relocating to the Manulife Centre.

We would like to reiterate that we are pleased to participate in this ongoing work as part of the Heritage Focus Group. ABCRA will support this group to help inform the comprehensive field survey of the CHRA to ensure the historic cultural value of the area is identified, understood, and preserved. ABCRA looks forward to hearing from you regarding next steps.


Mary-Helen Spence
Board Member, ABC Residents Association
Corinne Barr
Board Member, ABC Residents Association

On behalf of the ABC Residents Association.

Photos: Rosedale Subway Station Entrance: Milan Suvajac, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Rosedale Subway: Anthony Easton, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Rosedale station September 18, 1953, Reference: Photographer: Canada Pictures Limited City of Toronto Archives, Series 381, File 265, Item 11122-20

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