Time for another update! (For background, read my columns in Leaside Life, March, June and September 2021.) Here’s what’s happening with our Talbot quad (1783-85 Bayview Ave.) just south of the Leaside LRT station site, fast coming to completion.
Last time out, we described how Metrolinx asked for a meeting with the Leaside Residents Association in July 2021 to discuss a “heritage impact assessment” (HIA), which contemplated “commemoration” (following demolition) of 1783-85 Bayview Ave., the quadraplex owned by Metrolinx. The LRA did not comply, and instead submitted questions to Metrolinx regarding its process and whether Metrolinx was following the province’s own heritage policies, given that the property was owned by the province, with status as a “Provincial Heritage Property.”
After that, radio silence until we were asked to attend a meeting on February 17 with ERA Architects, a well-known heritage consulting firm, for input to a “strategic conservation plan” (SCP). This sounded hopeful. It appeared that Metrolinx was now acknowledging the property’s status as a Provincial Heritage Property and were following the Standards and Guidelines for Conservation of Provincial Heritage Properties.
The three questions raised by ERA and our responses are as follows:
1. What do you value about this property?
The Leaside community values the property as part of an intact row of four-unit apartment houses – 10 in total. The row fits well into the Leaside townscape of modest houses and apartments that were built in the period between 1928 and 1953, when almost all of Leaside was built. The row is part of the comprehensively planned Town of Leaside, which may be, and likely is, the first new town established on garden city principles in Ontario. Eight years after the launch of the world’s first garden city in Letchworth, England, Frederick Gage Todd laid out the Town of Leaside – one of three model new towns laid out on Garden City principles for the Canadian Northern Railway. Landscape architect Frederick Gage Todd is recognized as the leading Canadian exponent of the Garden City approach to developer-built housing projects during the early 20th century.
The four-unit apartment house at 1783-1785 Bayview Ave. retains its architectural integrity both on its exterior and in its interior. As the Cultural Heritage Evaluation Report (CHER) done for Metrolinx by Taylor Hazell Architects noted: “The interior(s) of the units are remarkably intact, consistent throughout and have refined detailing.”
2. What’s most important about this property?
The quads maintain the overall character of the Leaside Garden Suburb and its cohesive built form. Henry Howard Talbot, the successful builder of this row of apartment houses, was also responsible for the heritage-designated garden apartments farther south on Bayview Ave. and numerous single-family houses in Leaside. Talbot is responsible for providing a variety of innovative housing types that have lasted into the early 21st century. His career as a builder led to Talbot’s becoming a mayor of the Town of Leaside. The apartment house at 1783-1785 Bayview Ave. backs onto the park named for him, drawing the connection between his apartment house and the open space. Also, the position of the apartment house at the western edge of Leaside and first in the row gives it a gateway function in the community. And of course, besides its cultural heritage value to our community, the building offers a more affordable housing choice in Leaside.
3. What should be the future of the property?
We would expect the apartment house at 1783-1785 Bayview Ave. to remain a four-unit apartment house. We would also want any development on the LRT Station site (1787 Bayview Ave.) to limit its impact on the apartment house as well as on Talbot Park.
However, since the meeting, ERA recently provided a draft SCP report to LRA which suggests that the heritage values are not strong enough for the building to be retained. The implication is that the building may be demolished before it is disposed of by Metrolinx to the private developer.
What’s next? – maybe it’s time to man the ramparts and load the cannons, as we said a year ago.