How one word could save more of our heritage

The Durant Motors office building, at the bottom of this c. 1930 photo, is to be redeveloped. The building is on the west side of Laird Dr.
The Durant Motors office building, at the bottom of this c. 1930 photo, is to be redeveloped. The building is on the west side of Laird Dr.

Can a report be fatally flawed yet fixed by the addition of one word? I think so and here’s how.

The Durant Motors office building at 146-150 Laird Dr. is proposed to be partially demolished and redeveloped as a seven-storey condominium with 109 units, linked to an eight-storey rental retirement home with 175 units next door.

The developer’s proposal is to retain only the front facade of the building and part of the north and south sides.

The staff report called Intent to Designate – 150 Laird Dr. said, “The heritage attributes on the exterior of the property at 150 Laird Drive are…the south, east and north elevations.”

But nothing was said about the west elevation, just a comment that, “Please note that later additions to this property, the fire escape stairs and metal clad addition on the west side of the property are not included as heritage attributes.”

The word west has now been added to the designation.

That is expected to create changes to the development plans. In effect the new word now secures full protection for the building.

The aerial image (Aerial View of Laird and McRae Drives, c.1930) of the Leaside Industrial Area (which accompanied my LL column in May 2015), clearly shows the west wall of the Durant Motors Administration Building as having the same brick and stone materials and Gothic Revival architecture as on the east, south and north walls. 

After noting the omission I decided to check it out and see what exists today. So I rode over to the site and found that yes indeed the west wall is there.

The metal clad one-storey building is a separate accessory building, not an “addition” to the building, which extends behind the building for its entire length and partially hides the west side.

The rest was easy. I wrote Heritage Preservation Services to give them a heads up, and contacted our  councillor.

So at North York Community Council I raised the matter by deputation, and Councillor Burnside made a motion directing staff to review the architectural value of the west elevation of the building and report directly to City Council for its meeting Dec. 9, on any recommended revisions to the Statement of Significance and heritage attributes of the property.

At that meeting, the revised report, which now included all four sides of the building as heritage attributes, was approved.

A key concern of the Leaside Property Owners’ Association was the unacceptably low level of heritage conservation of 150 Laird.

Now that the heritage attributes of the property have been revised to recognize the architectural unity of all four sides, and consequently the exterior structure of the building as a whole, it is expected that the conservation of this iconic Leaside heritage property will be materially affected and enhanced.

About Geoff Kettel 222 Articles
Geoff Kettel is a community connector and advocate for “making places better”. He is currently Co-President of the Leaside Residents Association, Co-Chair of the Federation of North Toronto Residents‘ Associations (FoNTRA), member of the Toronto Preservation Board and Past Chair of the North York Community Preservation Panel. He writes a monthly column on heritage and planning in Leaside Life.