Contributed by Andre Bermon. In mid-July, City Council took momentous step towards improving ways to identify heritage resources in Toronto. Known as the City-wide Heritage Survey Feasibility Study, this decision will launch a multi-year work plan to standardize the City’s response to heritage evaluation and protection.
According to the study summary, a Toronto Heritage Survey will result in “operational efficiencies, enhance civic leadership and responsiveness to provincial land-use planning and cultural heritage policies, and improve predictability for City staff, property owners and the public.” The survey also promises to create a new resource mapping system to collect and disseminate information to city planners and the general public.
Since amalgamation, there has been no systemic effort to tally the amount of heritage resources in the city. Little attention is currently given to classify what constitutes heritage and especially, how protection is enforced once a resource is identified. The Ontario Heritage Act does provide broad planning tools, but these are largely effective in communities with long-standing conservation laws. Emerging neighbourhoods struggle to preserve the integrity of old buildings because of high development pressure and lack of municipal knowledge and guidelines for local heritage stock.
The city-wide survey will consider over 400,000 properties for historical evaluation. A process that commits to clearing the backlog of nomination applications for individual properties and the formation of heritage conservation districts await study and approval. Neighbourhoods across the city will be invited to volunteer and participate through community engagement programs starting sometime in 2020.
Results from the survey should force the City to be more proactive in heritage conservation. A real need in a time of unprecedented growth. Our city’s livability depends on the thoroughness of our present-day efforts, so future generations may enjoy the longevity and complexity of our built history.