Proposed De La Salle Development: Could Ruin View (Michael Vaughan)

Proposed De La Salle Development: Could Ruin View of Significant Cultural Landscape View 
Michael Vaughan

Read the article on the BUILT HERITAGE NEWS WEBSITE HERE (Item #2).

De La Salle College on Avenue Rd. south of St. Clair wants money. Rather than raise it in the normal way, it wants to build a 45 ft.high housing development going down Avenue Rd. from the foot of the escarpment and turning east along Oaklands. It would wall off the face of the escarpment, the playing field and the heritage Oaklands House from public view and would demolish the heritage entrance gate and gate house. Since the beginning of time, the escarpment, the old Lake Iroquois shore line stretching across the City, has been the great geological natural feature of Toronto. De La Salle is the last remaining place where the public can see its face and sense its majesty jutting out towards the lake.

Oaklands is the last of the19th century villas built on the edge of the escarpment to dominate and overlook the City. Those villas on the brow of the escarpment were penthouses for Victorian potentates allowing them to look down on the humble houses below and out over Lake Ontario. The only remaining villa gates and gatehouse, which were indispensible parts of the great villas, would be demolished. The view of the formidable face of the escarpment has been a public “place identity” since long before the City began. The open space is a welcome pause in the urban form and is part of the physical character of the neighbourhood. De La Salle is exempt from paying realty taxes because its lands are considered to be a public amenity.

The City’s Official Plan has strong policies to protect views from the public realm
to prominent buildings, structures, landscapes and natural features; The development would destroy those views. Years ago the City did a detailed study of the site and adopted special Official Plan policies for the area which are in effect and which govern. The Official Plan designates the site as an open area with a view terminus looking from the south up to the north as well as a view corridor looking from the north down to the south and protects the escarpment. De La Salle has been content with these policies for many years.

De La Salle is a big property with several suitable development sites. The current proposal is a direct frontal attack on the heritage and other policies of the City and the Province. Hopefully a solution can be found to meet De La Salle’s financial wishes elsewhere on the property. Hopefully the City will continue to protect the public and heritage values now threatened by De La Salle.