A new, self-contained community of about 700 homes coming to north London will have its own main street commercial corridor — and two historic red-tiled barns as its centrepiece.
The city has turned down a builder’s bid to tear down two barns at 660 Sunningdale Rd., just west of Adelaide Street, and that’s just fine with Peter Sergautis, president of Extra Realty.
Builder and city have come to terms with keeping the barns, but it was too late to withdraw the demolition application denied at a recent planning committee meeting, said Jennifer Jones, Extra’s project manager.
“We are prepared to retain the barns and work with planning to come up with a unique solution for the community,” she said.
After the demolition permit was denied, Extra hired a surveyor to study the barn sites as a first step in coming up with a development plan, said Jones, adding: “We are working closely with the city and heritage planners.”
The 42-hectare site will see 290 single-family homes and 393 medium-density townhouse and apartment units, in the area northwest of Sunningdale and Adelaide.
Jones envisions the barns housing a restaurant and farmers’ market, or other commercial use, opening on a park setting and acting as a focus for the development.
That development may resemble Wortley Village, a main street with commercial space fronting it, apartments above those stores, and townhouses and single-family homes set back from that main street.
“We want a walkable community. We feel like the days when you can walk your community, and visit with neighbours on your lawn, have been lost. It’s all vehicle traffic now and concrete. We want to reduce that and make a nice community,” said Jones.
There are challenges, she added. The barns’ tile cladding is old, dating from the 1940s, and bringing the buildings up to code will be an issue, but there may be city grants to help offset the cost of preserving the site.
While the buildings may be dated, they are in good condition and worth the investment, said city heritage planner Kyle Gonyou.
“They are unlike anything else in London. They are very interesting,” said Gonyou, whose report to planning committee noted the barns’ tile construction is rare in Ontario.
“They are great barns, with timber frames, wood cladding and haylofts. It’s a real carryover from the early 20th century. Now, agricultural buildings are almost like factories.”
Planning committee agreed Monday to grant heritage designation to the barns.
If that designation is approved by full council Tuesday, construction of Phase 1 of the massive development could begin by year’s end.
“There is still a way to go, but there are hurdles we have cleared and we are on our way,” said Jones.
The first phase — eight single-family homes and one medium-density block — likely will go up in the Kleinburg Drive area, said senior city planner Nancy Pasato. It will be the first of about seven phases to be built.
“It will be a really interesting mixed-use function, a main street with a commercial mix and residential, we don’t often see that,” and the barns will make it that much more unusual, she said.
“It will be great to see those barns used, as a restaurant or coffee shop, that makes the most sense,” said Pasato, who agreed with Jones’s vision of them fronting on a park planned for the development. “It is an excellent opportunity to interact with the park.”
Like Wortley Village or Old East Village, it would be a “walkable community to live, work and shop,” she said. “That’s the inspiration, more people now want those communities. We hope it takes off, but it is pretty early.”