In 1994, the East Annex (the area east from Bedford to Avenue Road, and just north of Bloor to Dupont) became one of the City’s first official heritage conservation districts (HCD). The Annex Residents’ Association (ARA) has now completed the foundational research, consultation, and inventory work for the West Annex (extending from Bedford west to Bathurst), excluding Madison Avenue which is already protected as an HCD.
This foundational work is intended to assist the City in determining whether this area, in part or in whole, should be protected as an HCD. It was conducted by the highly experienced team at ASI Heritage -- the largest archaeological and cultural heritage consulting firm in Ontario.
ASI provided the final historical context statement in December, 2022. A compressed PDF of the full report is available here. A higher resolution version can be requested by emailing [email protected] with the subject line "WAHP High Resolution Report Request."
In the course of their work, the team from ASI has provided us with two other key resources. The first is an annotated bibliography of materials related to the Annex. Then, resulting from their architectural survey of more than 1000 properties, ASI put together this guide to our neighbourhood’s architectural styles.
An important part of ASI's work was community engagement, involving four distinct stages:
- Introduction: A community information meeting was held on Thursday September 23, 2021 to introduce the project. Click to access materials used in the presentation. Also available is the summary report.
- Focus Groups 1: As a follow up to that introductory meeting, focus groups were held in mid-October for individual residents to offer their knowledge and express their thoughts about the Annex. Their remarks have been synthesized into this focus group summary.
- Focus Groups 2: Then in March, 2022, a second round of focus groups was held, each of which included a progress report on ASI's work to date. Their presentation materials are available here for review. And also available is the summary of the final focus group findings prepared by our facilitators throughout this process at Maximum City.
- Presentation: Finally, ASI produced a presentation of their preliminary findings for the ARA Annual General Meeting on April 22, 2022.
Q: What is a heritage conservation district (HCD)?
Heritage Conservation Districts are defined geographic areas that can be made up of natural landscapes, landmarks and/or buildings that together feature a very specific aspect of local history or a sense of place, extending beyond the setting alone. They are protected by individual municipal by-laws passed by Council under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act and based on consultation with the public, property owners, tenants, and other stakeholders. Districts are put in place to conserve and enhance the special character of historical areas and neighbourhoods.
Q: Why is this project important?
This project provides the historical research and property inventory required for a full HCD study and plan, to be conducted by the Heritage Planning Department of the City of Toronto. It is a necessary first step on the road to creating an official HCD for the West Annex.
Q: What is the difference between this project and an officially designated heritage conservation district (HCD)?
This project gathered research material and inventory data required to produce a full HCD study. The City will then use this data to expedite the HCD study phase. The HCD study will include analysis of the character of the area to understand patterns, an evaluation of the area using recognized criteria, a determination of historical integrity, determination of a boundary, and public consultation. Based on the results of the study phase, a recommendation would be made regarding whether the West Annex area meets definitions and criteria for HCDs as established by the Province of Ontario and City of Toronto. If it does, and based on feedback from the Toronto Preservation Board, a recommendation will be made to Council to proceed to preparation of an HCD Plan. The HCD Plan will be developed in consultation with property owners and tenants and based on public consultation, and will define conservation objectives for the area, including guidelines for altering properties that contribute to the area’s heritage value, as well as guidelines for infill and new development. The Plan is enacted through a municipal by-law and all properties included in the HCD are designated under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act.
Q: What time period is the research based on?
In the past, heritage conservation district research focused primarily on the period of original built-form growth of a neighbourhood. In the case of the Annex, this would be from about 1887 to 1925. However, this project surveys all natural, landscaped, and built heritage of the West Annex from earliest times to the present to understand and show how it has evolved over the decades.
Q: Are parks and natural features such as our creeks and trees included?
All natural and landscape features from the creek systems to parks and tree canopy are included in the project survey at an appropriate level of detail.
Q: Are cultural heritage features such as buildings and streetscapes included?
All buildings and features of the urban environment such as different forms of housing and transportation networks are included in the project survey. Intangible aspects of cultural heritage such as the diversity of groups, clubs, and organizations, or specific people who have shaped the development of the community will be included in the historical context statement.
Q: Who produced the project material?
ASI (https://asiheritage.ca/) is the professional heritage consulting firm hired by the Annex Residents’ Association.
Q: What have the consultants been asked to produce?
There are two deliverables for the project. The first is a comprehensive survey of all existing property parcels in the project study area, from west of Bedford Road to Bathurst (not including Madison, Bathurst, Dupont or Bloor). This will include direct property-by-property observation in the Fall of 2021 with project team members on foot recording textual data and taking photographs with their tablets. The second is an historical context statement that details the Annex’s history from earliest times to the present and that will document the evolving picture over time of our neighbourhood’s character.
Q: How is the project financed?
The project is financed through Section 37 funds negotiated by the Annex Residents’ Association (ARA) on behalf of the neighbourhood as part of the settlement for the One Bedford condominium. The money has been held in trust by the ARA. The ARA is in essence working on behalf of the City of Toronto to conduct this project. All contractual agreements with our heritage consultants and others are approved by the City of Toronto as is the methodology and final deliverables.
Q: What is the desired outcome for this project?
By providing the approved necessary research and inventory data to Heritage Planning at the City of Toronto, they can produce the study and plan for a future West Annex Heritage Conservation District.
Q: Will this project result in the designation of my property or neighbourhood?
No. The West Annex Heritage Project will not result in any heritage designations. That said, this project lays the groundwork for the development and implementation of an HCD study and plan executed by the City of Toronto. Should an HCD Plan be enacted through a municipal by-law, all properties included in the HCD will be designated under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act (see question 4 for details on the HCD process).
Q: Will I still be able to renovate my home or make changes to my property?
Yes, you can renovate your home. Even if your property is eventually designated as part of a heritage conservation district, HCDs welcome changes that support a neighbourhood's unique character. In some ways, HCDs by their very nature contemplate and support change. Property owners within a District are required to receive a heritage permit for major additions, alterations, or demolition on their property. Changes to the interior, changes to the exterior that are not visible from the street, and routine maintenance like painting do not require a heritage permit. The goal is to manage change in a way that accommodates an area’s inevitable evolution in a city like Toronto.
Q: Where can I learn more about heritage conservation districts in the Annex?
The heritage conservation district studies and plans are posted at https://www.theara.org/heritage .
Q: Where can I learn more about the City’s heritage program and regulations?