Queen Street Heritage nomination raises questions

The application for a zoning by-law amendment at 1960-1962 Queen St. E. – generally known as the ‘Lick’s development’ – will have been heard and voted on at Toronto and East York Community Council (TEYCC) on May 15 by the time this story reaches readers. In the meantime, a small group of local residents are meeting and planning an application to Heritage Toronto for a Heritage Conservation District (HCD) that would cover Queen Street East, from Woodbine to just east of Lee Avenue.

The goal of the HCD committee, according to their first meeting agenda, is “to have Queen Street East (Woodbine to Lee) designated an HCD, so an HSP (Heritage Preservation Services)-developed District Design Guideline is created with community input and approved by City Council to maintain ‘in perpetuity’ design attributes of historic value to the Beach residents and all Torontonians.”

HCD organizer Wayne Clutterbuck said the process is being initiated in reaction to the development proposal whose fate is currently in the hands of TEYCC.

“Everyone’s got their head around the Lick’s development. And they’re saying, ‘maybe we should designate the area HCD, just so that these random developments don’t require constant resident challenges’,” he said.

His small group has been looking at Queen Street with a critical eye, and have identified two dominant architectural forms: ‘block’ form, and ‘house’ form, which was a common Beach practice of adding a business onto the front of an existing house.

The HCD nomination form, while only a few pages long, allows for the submission of extensive support material, and the group is enlisting the help of several local historians, including Beach Metro News history columnist Gene Domagala. The main question asked is why the area should be considered; the form also asks for a general history of the area, and a description of the character of the area, which is the key argument for many opponents of developments over two or three storeys.

Clutterbuck – and many others – contend that Queen Street retains a small-town ‘main street’ feeling, which doesn’t mesh with tall, glass-clad modern condo buildings.

“I do think people want to maintain the small-town character of the Beach. I think that’s a major appeal. That’s one of the reasons why people come down here,” he said.

At a packed public meeting in April, Toronto’s Senior Preservation Coordinator Scott Barrett explained to the crowd the purpose of HCDs – which is to preserve the heritage aspects of a neighbourhood, not to stop new development in that neighbourhood. He also offered something of an opinion on the worthiness of Queen as one of many neighbourhoods that are, or could be, considered for an HCD in Toronto.

“If you ask me, I think this is a good area to do a study in, but we have a lot of priorities in the city,” he said at the time.

Ward 32 councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon is planning a ‘visioning study’ for Queen Street, with a purpose of producing a document that will guide city planners for development applications in the future; that process is set to get underway in the coming months, and be completed by late fall. She said any nomination for an HCD must be community-driven, and supported by the community as well.

“I will definitely support it, if people want it,” she said.

Clutterbuck said he is looking forward to the study, and is glad it includes Queen from Coxwell all the way to Neville Park.

“That really does represent the Beach ‘main street’, so to speak,” he said.

In the process of preparing the HCD nomination, the committee has started to ask some more fundamental questions about the process – namely, just where, exactly, does the Beach begin? If residents are polled on whether they support an HCD, which residents should be asked? Those that live south of Kingston Road, as the geography of the prehistoric Lake Iroquois would dictate? Or would anyone south of the rail line be included, as Clutterbuck feels should be the case?

It’s a tough question when the HCD in question would cover what is mainly a shopping district. Questions were also raised about whether homeowners or renters would be polled, along with property owners who don’t necessarily live in the area.

These questions, along with the original question of an HCD, were in turn raised in reaction to earlier questions brought up in reaction to recent development activity on Queen.

“I guess a good question is, does Toronto need more people? And does the Beach need more people? And I guess we could argue no, to maintain a quality of life that we’ve become used to,” said Clutterbuck.

The HCD committee is looking for input from the neighbourhood on the three most important queries posed on the nomination form: Should Queen Street be designated as an HCD, and why; describe the general history of Queen Street and the Beach; and describe the general character of Queen Street, or more directly, what makes the Beach, ‘the Beach’?

Anyone with opinions to share with the nomination committee can email their opinions to wayne.clutterbuck@rogers.com. For coverage of the TEYCC decision on 1960-1962 Queen St. E., visit beachmetro.com.

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I was a deputant at the May 15 Community Council meeting and as the last to speak after all my eloquent, well-researched neighbours and community residents I said a few words in the hope of persuading the Council to oppose the current design for 1960-1962 Queen Street East. I also suggested to the developer Shelby Fenton that it was not too late to redesign a building that would suit Queen Street. The new building could be precedent-setting, perhaps award winning and he would be embraced by the community to develop the next project.

A pipe-dream perhaps but without vision and creativity what are we left with?

It was a unanimous vote in favour of allowing the 1960-1962 Queen Street East (Lick’s) rezoning to proceed. After all the impassioned pleas from deputants we were treated to a lecture from Councillors about how lucky we are to have such a condo development in the Beach; how they wished they could have such a great building in their wards. Although voting with the rest of the Council, it was really only Adam Vaughan, Councillor for Ward 20, Trinity Spadina who was most sympathetic to Beach residents and stated most succinctly that “the building would stick out like a sore thumb”.

The approved plan will now go to the full City Council on June 5th or 6th for final approval and with the endorsement of Council and the city planning department it is certain that City Council will not reject their recommendation. The building was approved with a 3 foot stepback above the 3rd floor and some other small changes but at the end of the day it is a 6-storey glass tower of a building that does not fit with the area. It is a sad day for the Beach and for the city when Council is obliged to approve a building that almost all the units were pre-sold before the developer had planning approval for his design. Among the Councillors reasons to approve were that the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board) will possibly approve an even worse version, and how fast the City is growing and “everyone needs somewhere to live”. A shameful display of democracy not working.

Sharman Wilson

I am not sure if you are the person I am looking for but I am trying to reconnect with my cousin who is from the UK. Her parents were Noel and Eleanor and she has a brother Stephen. If you are my cousin I would love to hear from you.

Hi Sandra – I just googled my name for no apparent reason and saw my letter to the Beach Metro and your reply to it.

You can call me at work at 1-800-387-7702 Ext 2210

I am so surprised I cannot tell you! Will be good to catch up.

Daughter of Eleanor and Noel and sister of Stephen

I have lived in the Beach for over 20 years, and I don’t know quite where to begin my response to this story … I attended the public meeting in April, and I have never seen or heard such a display of NIMBY-ism in my life! Who is Clutterbuck – indeed, who are we as Beach residents – to decide that TORONTO – never mind the Beach – doesn’t “need more people”? The sheer arrogance of this statement is astonishing! It smacks of “we are lucky enough to live in this wonderful neighbourhood (a sentiment with which I fully concur, BTW) but we’re not willing to allow anyone else in …

As for the push to declare the area a heritage district – what nonsense! Following the public meeting I walked the entire Beach strip, and I have to say that much of the architecture is just plain ugly, and much of it in a poor state of repair. It’s also far from homogeneous, with many ill-planned newer structures dotted along Queen St. at random. It is NOT a “small-town” main street by any stretch of the imagination.

The high commercial rents along Queen St. have resulted in a seemingly never-ending cycle of businesses opening and closing with depressing regularity; to my mind, much more so than in other neighbourhoods. A fresh infusion of new residents, perhaps of a different demographic, has the potential to invigorate the neighbourhood and help support local businesses… perhaps we might even become home to more than one good restaurant in the entire strip!

With respect to the Lick’s development, at the public meeting the city planner tried to explain in detail – TWICE – why he had decided to approve the project. The audience was not interested in hearing his reasons, and kept rudely interrupting the poor man who, after all, has a very difficult job to do … Further, the “artist’s rendition” of the proposed plan posted by one of the neighbourhood groups was so badly drawn, and partisan in the extreme, that it was embarrassing.

I know that my comments will not go down well with any of the (multitudinous) groups which purport to represent the interests of Beach residents, but I also know that I am not alone in my opinion.

Finally, I should say that I am NOT for unbridled development – far from it (I have no respect for developers whose sole goal is to make as much money as possible), but to take the position that future development should have to meet the approval of current residents is not feasible.

I await the flak …

Mike McHugh

Mike – I find your response extremely ignorant. I am not suggesting no building or no new people moving to the Beaches. If you read what I said I am all in favour of new development but not glass towers that are totally inappropriate to the area. It is not only local residents who enjoy the Beaches. Many people visit from Toronto and other places and when they come they are not generally looking for another version of Bloor Street or Yorkville.

In many ways I echo Mr. McHugh’s sentiments. I love living in this wonderful pocket of Toronto. However the overarching concern should be with the viability and sustainability of the community and the neighbourhood.

The Beach is bustling during the warm summer months with people that come in from other areas of Toronto, GTA etc. However, the same can not be said for the rest of the year. We have all seen many new businesses open and then shortly thereafter close their doors. There is not enough business within the community to keep these businesses afloat. There are lots of pubs and coffee shops but that is about it. If you keep going west on Queen into Leslieville, you will a thriving retail area with unique shops and restaurants.

Having additional people within our community might allow for new business to succeed. Perhaps an influx of a younger demographic will bring a fresh new vitality to Queen Street, which is very much needed.

While I appreciate Mr. Clutterbuck’s (who happens to be my neighbour and who I respect) view of maintaining a small town vibe within the city, I can not agree to not wanting any new residents. I find this opinion quite xenophobic and not how I would like to be represented as a Beach resident.

I am hoping that Ms. McMahon’s study takes a holistic approach to planning which will benefit the entire community and not a select group of residents that aren’t as open to change and diversity for the neighbourhood and ensure the sustainability for the area.

Bringing in more condos will do little to help the retail – it will just be more commuters adding to the traffic out, and the traffic in.

The problem with the area is the lack of through traffic for retailers combined with a lack or people here during the 9-5 hours throughout most of the year, save for the 2-3 summer months.

Where the planners crewed up is the idea of “mixed use”, which is really condos over a store, and nothing else – it does not included places for people to work, unless you want to flip burgers or work as a sales clerk.

In any case, this thread is supposed to be about Heritage district status, not the lick’s decision!

yes, there are some buildings here that are not attractive and new ones would be an improvement – but HCD status gives us more power to ensure that the new ones do fit in and actually are an improvement – the LCBO proposal definitely shows the problems with leaving it to the developers and their retail clients to decide what we should have, though in that case, the planners are also to blame – they need to involve us more instead of working in isolation and not consulting with the community.

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