NEWS November 10th, 2015

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City to increase heritage protection for development site

Laird building from 1928, now site of proposed seniors condo

The city is increasing its level of heritage protection for the site of a proposed seven-storey seniors’ condominium that will go to the Ontario Municipal Board next year.

Thanks to a staff report approved by the Toronto Preservation Board on Nov. 5 and expected to be finalized by city council in December, 150 Laird Dr. is scheduled to become a designated, rather than listed, heritage site.

While the current report by Heritage Preservation Services covers only the property’s north, south, and east sides, Ward 26 Councillor Burnside asked for a report that would consider including the west side during North York Community Council on Nov. 10.

“Bottom line: We want that building preserved in its current form,” Burnside said. “By upgrading the site’s heritage protection, we’ll hopefully improve its chances when it appears in front of the OMB.”

Though the terms “listed” and “designated” are often used interchangably, there is a key difference between them, said Mary MacDonald, the city’s manager of Heritage Preservation Services: heritage designation gives City Council the legal authority to refuse an application that will “adversely affect the property’s heritage attributes,” MacDonald said.

“It is important to note that designation does not mean that owners cannot make changes,” she added. “As a division, City Planning supports adaptive re-use and the rehabilitation of heritage properties to support new purposes.”

Originally constructed in 1928, when it served as the headquarters of Durant Motors of Canada, 150 Laird Dr. had been a listed heritage property since 2007, and was assessed for historic value before owner V!VA Retirement Communities submitted the current redevelopment application to the city in June 2014.

In its present form, the condominium proposed for 150 Laird Dr. would preserve and incorporate the existing building’s front façade.

However, if city council officially designates 150 Laird Dr. as a heritage site, V!VA would need council’s approval under the city’s Heritage Act before altering the building, MacDonald said.

Heritage Preservation Services also conducted a heritage evaluation of 146 Laird Dr., a three-storey commercial building next door that V!VA’s application would replace with an eight-storey retirement centre, but “did not feel that it demonstrated sufficient cultural heritage value,” MacDonald said.

V!VA submitted its application for 146 – 150 Laird Dr. to the OMB in April, and the proposal will appear before the board on Feb. 29, 2016.