Demolitions in Kensington Market have been halted for one year in a surprise move by Toronto City Council.
Cressy told The Varsity that he wants city staff to study the area before developers make any more decisions.
“There was a real risk that we would see a rush to demolish properties within Kensington Market in advance of that new conservation district coming in,” said Cressy. “And so the demolition freeze, which is a heritage conservation district bylaw, was put in place to put a pause on demolitions for one year until the completion of the district.”
He added that freezes were “a common and an effective tool that the city frequently uses when we’re reaching the final stages of heritage conservation districts.”
Cressy claimed that the freeze will not affect housing supply at all, and that there could still be development projects in the future.
However, because of the freeze, he said that it’s unlikely that there will be any new buildings in the next year until it’s decided whether or not to give Kensington a heritage designation.
“The city of Toronto has more than 20 heritage conservation districts,” said Cressy. “Heritage conservation districts are designed to protect the unique character of special areas within the city of Toronto, whether that’s a historic neighborhood like parts of the Annex or whether it’s Queen Street West, and ensuring that it retains its vibrant, independent retail fronts as opposed to big box.”
In the past, there have been cases when developers tore down buildings with historical significance despite pushback from heritage preservation supporters. City Council wanted to ensure that this would not be the case in Kensington.
Getting a building protected under the Ontario Heritage Act is a long process, and in some instances, the developers start demolition before it can be implemented. This is what happened when a 110-year-old Bank of Montreal building was , despite public outcry.
In 2015, Kensington Market was designated for consideration under the Ontario Heritage Act. Since then, four of six applicants for demolition were permitted.
In the past year, these heritage preservation groups have seen great success. This August, the Toronto Preservation Board approved a “midtown focus plan,” which, in an unprecedented move, added 258 buildings to the heritage registry.
When asked what he hopes will come of the demolition freeze, Cressy responded, “To ensure that as we are completing a heritage conservation district, we don’t see our rush to demolish our heritage before we have a chance to protect it.”