Toronto should preserve our heritage buildings as they are cultural links to our past and create an inviting and dynamic streetscape.
Pros: Preserve existing assets that cannot be replaced, the costs of preservation pale in comparison to cultural value of buildings and spaces, makes for a more interesting and dynamic public realm.
Cons: High cost of building around heritage assets, can take the form of ‘facade-ism’ instead of complete preservation or restoration, impedes development of higher-density, modern buildings required to meet the demands of a growing city.
Toronto needs to recognize the importance of built heritage to the city’s identity. Despite the fact that Toronto is a relatively young city; there are many architectural assets that deserve to be preserved and incorporated into the city’s growth. The city’s history took a major blow in the 20th century when urban renewal programs replaced architectural assets and public spaces with parking lots and monotonous towers. So great was the destruction that several books have been written about ‘lost Toronto’ and the public space and housing stock in many neighbourhoods has not recovered.
The City should expand the Heritage Grant and Heritage Tax Rebate Programmes, as well as Section 37 payments from developers for research, improvement and support for Heritage Toronto. This will ensure that conservation and restoration of Toronto's built heritage might continue and expand throughout the city, wherever it is warranted. The city should also expand models that have worked in the past, such as the Heritage Conservation Districts. The City should look towards increasing the number of these districts where streetscapes are preserved and buildings are protected against demolition.
Image credit: Ransomtech, Flickr creative commons