This old house has stopped the moaning

Catherina Maughan at her new ‘old’ house on Bessborough.
Catherina Maughan at her new ‘old’ house on Bessborough. Photo: Geoff Kettel

This column sometimes spends time bemoaning that perfectly good Leaside houses are being torn down to build homes often much higher and larger, that don’t fit the street.

But there are lots of people in Leaside who are renovating and not destroying their original homes, and are very happy to do so.

Along with Connor Turnbull of Leaside Matters, I was recently invited to visit the “new home” of Catherina Maughan at 171 Bessborough, where such a renovation is underway.

She explained, “We think you will be pleasantly surprised…. We are going to great pains to restore the original house.”

Indeed, we were pleased – not just surprised.

Maughan’s project involves preserving the building shell, internal walls, and adding an addition (“all brick”) on the back. But there are lots of “improvements,” such as the lowered basement, replacing floors with full board hardwood flooring (“no squeaky floors”), and building a new fireplace in cut stone.

The project has a long way to go, but the work is of noticeable high quality. Not surprising, as her husband is managing director of Traditional Cut Stone Limited, the foremost stone restoration company in Canada.

Beyond the desire to keep the house’s fit to the street. and the character of the neighbourhood, are there any other advantages of renovation, rather than demolition and re-build?

Certainly there are in terms of energy.

Preservation saves energy by taking advantage of the energy embodied in an existing building and extending the use of it.

Leaside homes were well built, usually with double brick construction, and at 70 to 80 years old are hardly at the end of their life.

All those bricks going to landfill is a huge and growing waste. And unfortunately society does not exact a toll on such waste.

It’s often cheaper to demolish and reconstruct, but the new homes may not last as long. And because demolition involves energy use, it creates greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming.

We should be concerned with extending the lives of existing buildings  “because it is 2016,” and that is 10 years since American architect Carl Elefante coined the phrase, The Greenest Building is…The One Already Built.

More on this renovation later when the house is finished, later this spring.


So what’s happening with Eglinton Connects?

Recall that the city passed a number of planning and zoning measures – two official plan amendments, and one re-zoning – to implement the planning study in Leaside.

The LPOA appealed the special policy area permitting stacked townhouses on the south side of Eglinton west of Hanna, and the rezoning to allow for “as of right” midrise development of seven and eight storeys on the south and north sides of Eglinton, respectively between Sutherland and Laird.

These appeals are at the OMB, along with many others, mainly from private developers, involving various properties along the Eglinton corridor from Mt. Dennis to Brentcliffe.

An owner in the block west of Hanna affected by the townhouse special policy area has joined the appeal on the side of the city.

The LPOA has indicated to the city its interest in mediating both of our OMB appeals rather than going to a full (and very expensive) hearing. Mediation is set to begin May 16.

At Bayview and Eglinton the city passed a special policy area to allow for “predominantly mid-rise” development at the four corners as recommended by the Bayview Focus Area Study.

RioCan has appealed the special policy area and the LPOA has indicated its intent to be a Participant, and may need to request to be a Party in this case. RioCan had submitted a rezoning application for the Sunnybrook Plaza site to permit 19- and 13-storey towers joined by an 8-storey podium. Subsequently RioCan appealed that application to the OMB, and has indicated that it is changing the plans.

At a presentation of the revised plans arranged by Councillor Burnside in February to the LPOA and some community members, the changes were described as focussing on an improved design, now with free-standing towers rather than joined by a podium.

However, the revised plans showed only a minimal reduction in height (the second tower is reduced from 13-storeys to 12-storeys). More on this when details are available later.

At a meeting on January 22, the hearing dates for the multiple cases involving numerous Parties and Participants across the Eglinton Crosstown corridor were deferred till the late fall to allow time for sorting out the issues, and for mediation to occur.

This meeting was interesting as it was the first OMB meeting that I have attended that was attended by a number of regular folks in addition to the suits that tend to congregate at these meetings.

You may have seen an advertisement for the meeting and if you live within a few blocks of Eglinton you may have received an invitation.

This followed a complaint to the OMB from the Confederation of Residents and Ratepayers Associations, that the city had not properly informed the public of these meetings, and therefore they were not given an opportunity to participate.


Residents on Eglinton who thought they had finished with the noise and vibration as the tunnel boring machines chewed their way past their homes, are now concerned about a new noise problem, causing sleepless nights for several residents.

One resident (who does not want to be named) says it “is a loud rumbling noise with a shake that feels like an earthquake”.

Metrolinx spokesman Jamie Robinson says it is the locomotive supply train travelling between the boring machines and the Brentcliffe portal making the noise and vibration.

Residents now face similar noise and vibration periodically during the day, but also weeknights when people need to sleep.

One resident has  a proposal to solve the problem.

The crews are working 24/5 (120 hours per week Monday – Friday). Instead crews could work 17/7 (still 120 hours per week but Monday to Sunday), and work Saturday and Sunday during the day.

As the resident says, “This would allow similar progress, but affected residents would get to sleep seven hours per night!”

To see progress of the tunnelling, go to: 

About Geoff Kettel 219 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.