It’s not news to anyone that Queen West is changing, and fast. Just across the street from us, there’s a plan for a new condo to go up in the next year (this is part of the impetus for our Art Hut project, which is up in the meantime).
What you may not know is that that a first draft of a development plan has just been released, and the way it stands now, it could have serious consequences for the historical preservation of West Queen West.
In a nutshell, the plan only marks half of WQW as a heritage site, including the site of our hotel. The consultant is suggesting, therefore, that these areas have no heritage values. If this plan goes through, it would lead to high-rises, big boxes, and chain retail.
The Ossington Community Association has partnered up with the West Side Community Council to discuss the impact of gentrification in the neighbourhood. In particular, they are concerned with the cultural heritage of Parkdale as a community and how dividing West Queen West plays a role a detriment to preserving it.
They write, “Queen St West is world-famous because of its heritage continuity, and it creates as much pride and joy for Toronto as anywhere. It is viewed as a unified whole, and should be protected as a unified whole. Any civic-minded person can see that chopping it up to hand out fat slices to developers rates somewhere between “selling the family silver” and “wanton self-destruction”.
In response, our fearless leader and Chief Alchemist at the Gladstone Hotel, Christina Zeidler, has penned a letter expressing her thoughts on the need to revise this plan.
Dear Planners and Councillors, Decision Makers and City Builders,
I am lending my voice to the ongoing discussion around the Queen West heritage study.
It seems to me to be imperative to include Queen West from Shaw to Dufferin (and beyond Jameson) in the Heritage District. Although some of this area has been recently developed, especially on the south side of the street, these developments should respond to the historic nature of West Queen West and its neighbourhood character. This particular conversation has been well-documented and has informed many of the conversations that urbanists, developers and planners have gone over in detail in the last ten years while development has been considered and approved in the area. This includes much of the work done around the development of the CAMH site.
Any new development should be considered in concert with the existing heritage aspects and the particular character of the district. This stretch of Queen Street in particular has a rich history that has helped to define the current success of West Queen West (two hotels, a “great hall,” multiple small, fine grade store fronts). Excluding it from the rest of Queen West would seem to doom the existing heritage. This can be seen in many examples in the downtown core, from Yorkville to Yonge street, where preserving only singular buildings of historic value and not considering the multiple small storefronts as part of the heritage and character of the neighbourhood, has rendered the surviving buildings irrelevant.
Including these areas in the conservation district considers West Queen West and Parkdale as neighbourhoods worthy of continued growth, and builds on our current success in attracting people from all over the world to experience Toronto’s culture and heritage.
A decision to exclude this area in a conservation district would seem to be in opposition to the lengthy discussion we have been having as a community about this area, that has been well documented in multiple community consultations over the last 10-15 years.
Please consider including this and continuing to preserve West Queen West as a cultural destination and a living working neighbourhood.
Thank you for including my voice in this important discussion.
You can read more about this issue, and read the plan itself here.