STATE OF HERITAGE REPORT RELEASED: IDENTIFIES VALUE OF HERITAGE AND NEED FOR GREATER PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

February 21, 2019 (Toronto, Ont.)Heritage Toronto releases its State of Heritage Report today, following a year of research, consultations, and engagement with 58 community organizations and over 500 members of the general public. The Report provides 17 recommendations on how to better promote and protect Toronto's heritage. Since 2001, Heritage Toronto has been producing such reports as part of its role as advisor to the city on heritage matters.

Although the Report identifies strong examples of successful heritage work, it also describes an overall sense of public discouragement at the continued slow pace of heritage protection and, in some cases, the outright refusal of private and public leaders to recognize and integrate heritage into their plans.

"Throughout Toronto's history, it has been public action that saved so many iconic features and city landmarks like St. Lawrence Hall, twice slated for demolition. Sadly, in recent years, the public voice has been muted in decisions about civic spaces, such as Davisville Public School and Ontario Place," says Allison Bain, Executive Director of Heritage Toronto.

"Three decades of waterfront planning have been thrown out the window by the provincial government, ignoring the will of the people," says Councillor Paula Fletcher, who moved a motion at City Council last month to begin negotiations aimed at acquiring the waterfront Hearn Generating Station, which was sold privately by the Province late last year.

“This foundational report identifies key issues across our complex heritage sector and provides an opportunity to amplify the public's voice to City Council, and to facilitate public action. Moving forward, Heritage Toronto will review and update the impact of these recommendations on a regular basis,” says Richard Moorhouse, Chair of Heritage Toronto's Board of Directors.

A copy of the report is available online. Read it now.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE REPORT'S FINDINGS

'We must showcase the depth and breadth of heritage outside downtown Toronto'

The Report identifies a need for greater recognition and protection of Toronto's suburban heritage, finding that 91% of listed properties are in the downtown council area. "We're the poor cousin of downtown," said one Scarborough resident who is quoted in the Report. Scarborough has only 163 listed properties, compared with over 10,500 in Toronto and East York. That region's Agincourt neighbourhood has been waiting for over a decade for its Heritage Conservation District to be approved.

'Heritage and sustainability are natural allies'

The Report also calls for more incentives for environmentally friendly adaptive reuse of heritage buildings, recognizing that construction and demolition debris currently accounts for approximately 24% of annual municipal waste.

Meanwhile, development and population growth are encroaching on the city's green space. Parkland supply is still considered low in major parts of the city. The Report calls for an inclusive natural heritage network throughout the city, recognizing initiatives such as the Great Streets program, which integrates urban infrastructure, heritage architecture, and the natural environment. Further, the recent threats to Ontario Place and the Hearn Generating Station has brought into sharp focus the future of the natural heritage of the waterfront and the question of public access.

‘We need to quantify the economic impact of heritage’

The Report calls for an economic impact assessment to quantify the value of heritage to Toronto’s economy. We need to determine the value of heritage, in cultural tourism dollars, in labour income, employment, and tax revenues. From hosting city-wide cultural festivals, to filming in and outside unique heritage buildings, to creating construction jobs, heritage is a positive contributing force to Toronto’s economy.

KEY FACTS:

  • The City of Toronto has added more than 2,500 new properties to its Heritage Register since 2014, an increase of approximately 30%.
  • A study of Ontario designated properties, cited by the Report, showed that 59% had higher than average property values for their area.
  • Toronto parkland has increased by 3.5% in the last 20 years, while the population has grown by 17% in the same period.
  • Attendance to city-run heritage programs has increased by 14% in the past three years.
CASE STUDIES FEATURED: Designed and created by Anishinaabe artist Solomon King in consultation with Toronto Council Fire, this project directly responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report's Call to Action #82, which requests the establishment of a highly visible and publicly accessible Residential School sculpture in each capital city. The project has received government support for $2M of its estimated $5.2M costs. This 1931 former public works building and surrounding property is being reimagined by MOD Developments and Woodcliffe Landmark Properties as an expansive 13-storey neighbourhood that exemplifies an inclusive approach to adaptive reuse. In addition to a food hall, YMCA, condos, and rooftop garden, the building also contains the new location for Eva's Phoenix, which provides transitional housing for youth experiencing homelessness. A 2017 redesign of the 19th-century brick-making kilns integrated sustainable, low-energy building practices with the historic character of the site. Additional renovations have been recently unveiled as the TD Future City's Centre, which provides a gathering space to celebrate urban innovation that is surrounded by the brick works' historical legacy. The design of this new park, established by Infrastructure Ontario in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, emphasizes the endurance of living practices of Indigenous community in the Toronto region. The granite walls reference both southern Ontario's ravine systems and the Moccasin Identifier Project, a province-wide campaign that offers visual reminders that we are on the traditional territory of Indigenous people.

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