A $300-million downtown mega-project was approved Tuesday by city council that in this case bulldozed heritage concerns to make way for infill core development.
A row of 140-year-old Victorian townhouses whose fate alarmed local heritage activists is now set for the wrecking ball after council voted 12-2 to allow developer Rygar Properties Inc. to raze them and build what will be the tallest structure in London.
Infill projects are a key part of the London Plan, the blueprint for city growth that calls for inward and upward development to curb sprawl.
This is that policy in action, one politician said.
“This is a watershed moment. This is where we’re going,” said Coun. Tanya Park, whose ward includes the site — the west side of Talbot Street between Fullarton Street and Dufferin Avenue.
“We’re looking forward to building a more vibrant and populated downtown. In order to do that, we need to build downtown.”
Councillors Anna Hopkins and Stephen Turner opposed the project, while Coun. Jared Zaifman was absent. All others voted in support, though Coun. Jesse Helmer later said he had intended to vote against it.
At issue is a multi-tower, 750-unit residential development proposed by Rygar that could transform downtown London’s skyline. It would be the tallest building between Mississauga and Calgary, Coun. Maureen Cassidy said.
In the way, however, is the row of townhouses, known as Camden Terrace, dating to the 1800s. They’re in poor shape, but heritage activists want them preserved as part of the project.
The developer offered a compromise: rebuilding the facades as part of the lobby of a nine-storey building that will be book-ended by 29- and 38-floor residential towers. It will cost Rygar $2 million.
Though heritage activists were unimpressed, city council’s majority, citing the rowhouses’ structural problems, approved the staff-recommended plan.
The voice of heritage preservation wasn’t lost in the debate, with Hopkins urging her colleagues to send the matter back to staff and Rygar for further consultation.
“We’ve heard from staff that it will be challenge,” she said. “Things that are important are usually a challenge.”
Though the Talbot rowhouses are doomed, buildings at 93 and 95 Dufferin will be preserved as part of the project that may be the biggest single residential project in downtown’s history.