Surprised by Garden Court condo proposal

We were surprised last month to find out that an application had been made to convert the Garden Court apartments, 1477 Bayview Ave., to a condominium (and the tenants were not informed). This property is widely recognized as an excellent example of Garden City planning, and quality rental housing.

It represents an extremely important, indeed likely a unique resource, from both heritage, and housing mix perspectives.

The Leaside Property Owners’ Association expressed several concerns about the application, such as the loss of affordable rental housing, the de-stabilization of the rental residential community, and the potential threat to the heritage status.

The application was deferred by North York Community Council on Tuesday, April 9, as the application as submitted was incomplete. While the application lacks any apparent public benefits, it may still return!

What will we consider our future heritage?

So you visited the Layers of Leaside Archival Exhibit at Leaside Library. Interesting? But is it a practical project or merely an academic exercise? And what next? Actually, understanding the six historical layers of settlement, each of which have a distinct identity (based on prevailing architectural style for example), can help us to develop a kind of “system plan” for Leaside’s built heritage.

So it can help us start to identify properties and whole streets that are deserving of heritage protection.

Remains from all layers except Layer 1 (Pre-history and Pre-settlement) may be seen today in Leaside. The former Borough of East York and its Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (LACAC) identified what they saw at that time as “heritage” – the settler homes like that of John Edmund Lea (33 Heather), James Lea (201 Sutherland) and the Thomas Elgie Farmstead (262 Bessborough). These homes are pretty much all that remains from Layer II (Pioneers and Settlers – 1800 to 1910).

LACAC recognized some remains from Layer III (Early Industrial and the Establishment of the Town of Leaside – 1910 to 1929) such as the Canadian Northern Railway Maintenance Facility on Laird Dr., now converted to a Longo’s, and the Perrem and Knight grocery store at 322 Sutherland (at McRae). But they missed the residential development of the day, like the Canada Wire and Cable homes of Sutherland and Randolph, and the Wilkinson Home (45 Sharron Dr., formerly 1 Clowes Rd.).

Layer IV (Late Industrial Development and Tract Development 1930- 1954) is where housing development in the Town of Leaside really took off. While the town plan and the basic road layouts were established in Layer III, the lots got built on and the town built out in Layer IV, and it all happened in little more than a decade.

This layer is where the character of Leaside with the Georgian and Tudor Revival architecture of south Leaside was established by several builders of the time, including Henry Howard Talbot, Arthur William Brockington, A.B Cairns and Ron Balsdon. Layer IV ends with the construction of Sunnybrook Plaza – the first commercial plaza in Ontario.

Except for Garden Court apartments with their fine Beaux Arts architecture, this Layer has been neglected until recently for heritage. The Henry Howard Talbot-built Talbot Apartments at Bayview and Sutherland/Airdrie were protected by the city in 2007.

Leaside’s first Heritage Conservation District will almost certainly come from this enormously significant Layer of Leaside.

For Layer V the development action swings over to Thorncliffe Park, which was annexed by the Town of Leaside in 1954. Thorncliffe, built up in the 1960s, has very recently received some attention. The Coca-Cola building at 42-46 Overlea Blvd. has recently been recommended for listing by the Toronto Preservation Board and the North York Community Council.

Layer VI- Present Day, 2000 to 2013. Today we are an infill community; there are almost no new lots; there are add-ons and renovations, and demolitions and reconstructions, perhaps too many of the latter. And what of the power centres on Laird, will they stand the test of time? What will we consider as heritage in the future? We would be interested to know what you think

About Geoff Kettel 188 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.