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Developers are taking us all for fools

In 2011 the Town published a Heritage Conservation plan for Lower Main Street South, showing how best to preserve Newmarket’s wonderful historic downtown. It is council policy but, curiously, I am told this important document awaits the By Law that would put it into effect.

This casual oversight should be remedied without delay.

It is impossible to read the Plan without concluding that the people behind the proposed Clock Tower redevelopment – the Forrest Group - are taking us all for fools.

Chris Bobyk (see below) and his colleagues want us to believe it is possible to dump a huge condo in the very centre of the Town’s famous Main Street without fatally damaging the historic environment.

The Era Banner reports that Ward 5 councillor, Joe Sponga, “is confident the public and the developer will be able to agree on a design that will benefit the area as long as the lines of communication are kept open.”

Personally, I don’t share Joe’s confidence.

The gap between the developer and the rest of us is, quite simply, unbridgeable. The Forrest Group’s proposals run directly counter to the policies set out in the Heritage Conservation plan.

Joe understands this although he seems strangely reluctant to say so. He sat on the Project Steering Committee Group that vetted and then approved the draft Plan.

The agreed final version of the Plan tells us

“Main Street South below the crest of the hill to Water Street is arguably the most historic street in Newmarket… Because of its topography and the scenic views that it creates, Lower Main Street South is one of the most identifiable main streets in the Toronto region.”

And later

“The narrowness of the roadway, the humanly scaled street wall enclosures, the rise in elevation, the four landmarks (the Christian Baptist Church, the Clock Tower on the old Post Office, Trinity United Church and the Old Town Hall) and the wealth of views make Lower Main Street South one of the most visually interesting main streets in the Toronto region.”

The Clock Tower redevelopment would ruin sightlines. The long distance view of the iconic Clock Tower from Lorne and Park Avenue would be blocked.

Panoramic views of the historic district would be wrecked.

The Plan makes it clear that building heights of two to three storeys on Main Street should be maintained. So the developers ingeniously try to get round this by retaining the facades of the commercial buildings in the Clock Tower block and demolishing everything behind.

When the sledgehammers start swinging we will lose a wealth of irreplaceable period features. The old wooden floor in Lemon and Lime, lovingly restored, would be destined for landfill. And much else besides.

Councillors can keep the lines of communication open for as long as they like.

But if they buckle and crumple, as they do, and give the go-ahead to the Forrest Group they will be committing an act of unparalleled civic vandalism.

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