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The Clock Tower redevelopment on Main Street

The Toronto Star’s Christopher Hume has extended my vocabulary, introducing me to the word “facadomy”.

This is where historic buildings are torn down in the name of progress but the façade is retained.

He tells me the City of Toronto has often been party to this “mutilation” but things may be changing. City officials have decided that knocking down heritage properties without permission is no longer OK.

“The owner of a heritage building at 267 Queen Street East and the contractor who demolished it earlier this year have been served with a summons that could see them fined $1 million and spend a year behind bars.”

Excellent. This is precisely what is needed.

Anyway… The story gets me thinking about facadomy in historic Newmarket.

The Forrest Group is currently working up plans to redevelop the Clock Tower site in Main Street South (see earlier posts below).

In January 2011 the Clock Tower Inn Retirement Residence was offered for sale at $3,275,000.

On 1 March 2011 it was snapped up for $2,340,000 by 2259613 Ontario Inc.

Also known as Main Street Clock Inc.

Also known as Robert Forrest.

Unfortunately for Bob, he doesn’t own all the land required for the monstrous new Condo he wants to plonk down in the middle of Main Street.

He needs to buy out Michael Bryan, the owner of the row of historic buildings next to the Clock Tower. Forrest wants to demolish the buildings but retain the facades.

My spies tell me a very substantial pot of cash has been dangled before Mr Bryan’s eyes but the deal is conditional on Newmarket granting all the necessary approvals.

And these should not be forthcoming. No way.

Main Street is not for sale. Not at any price.

Newmarket councillors should take their cue from the Town’s own Heritage Advisory Committee which rejected the plan last month, saying it was unable to support the proposed building's mass and height.

Councillors have already designated the downtown area a Heritage Conservation District (although the concomitant By Law awaits) and that means preserving irreplaceable heritage buildings - and renowned views and panoramas.

In its Ontario Heritage Toolkit, the Ministry of Culture specifically addresses this issue.

“The significance of a Heritage Conservation District often extends beyond its built heritage, structures, streets, landscape and other physical and spatial elements, to include important vistas and views between and towards buildings and spaces within the district.”

Alas, despite all these fine words and reams of policies, Councillors can still side with the developer if they so choose.The Town’s top planner, Rick Nethery, tells me 

“Proposals that do not necessarily conform to all aspects of a Heritage Conservation District plan, whether it is in full force or not, can continue to be approved by Council if deemed appropriate.”

Seems to me this gives councillors – and those who advise them – carte blanche to do whatever they please.

And it also gives encouragement to Bob Forrest who clearly believes the Town’s Heritage Conservation policies present no obstacle to his plans and, with a nod and a wink, he can navigate his way through them.

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