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ACTION (Bulletin from December 21st, 2002)

Millions of Dollars Reward for the Destruction of Yorkville on its 150th Anniversary Toronto, Ontario-"The year 2003 will mark the 150th anniversary of the world-renowned village of Yorkville--but it may also mark its destruction, if the developers of 116 to 134 and of 76, 92 and 100 Yorkville Avenue are successful," according to Mr. Stacey Ball, a top employment lawyer and university (U.W.O.) instructor practicing in Yorkville. Residents, business owners, and heritage supporters around the world agree.

The two developments propose to demolish the 3-storey Victorian townhouses and a heritage fašade that define Yorkville, and helped make it "one of the most popular tourist attractions in North America," according to www.toronto.com/profile/145807/. Both developments share the same office building; both grossly contravene the height, density, set-back and gross floor area requirements of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

The first (revised) proposal, a "hideous nine-storey hotel.disaster" by York Row Ltd.-- at the north-west corner of 116 Yorkville and 10 Hazelton Avenues-- might reap millions in profit by exceeding, by over 40,000 sq. ft., the OMB restrictions. As the OMB's setback rulings are also ignored, the village which "has always been the heart and soul of Toronto," will lose its townhouse streetscape and human scale. And, apparently because the former Toronto Historical Board believed the original Yorkville-quarried brick facades of the site's ten 1885 townhouses were razed--the modern brick was merely glued on and staircases between the townhouses added--it ruled the site "of no historical significance." Hence, it's ineligible for heritage protection, though comparable in age, height, size, design, scale, even gutted interiors, to townhouses in the Yorkville-Hazelton Heritage Conservation District it abuts. (A digital restoration of York Row similar to its probable appearance in 1885, is downloadable from www.saveyorkville.com, or temporarily from http://heritageyorkville.tripod.com/ or, to pick up a floppy with downloadable photos, etc., e-mail saveyorkville@hotmail.com )

Further east on the same street, developer Yorkville (2001) Ltd.'s revised proposal calls for a 10-storey and a 16-storey condo building at 76, 92 and 100 Yorkville Avenue, for demolition of the heritage-designated Mt. Sinai Hospital fašade--and a potential 40 % Heritage Easement tax break for relocating the replica facade closer to the street! Whereas York Row Ltd. requests about 40% more gross floor area than its OMB "as of right" ruling, Yorkville (2001) Ltd. proposes around 30% more than permitted, for a gross floor area of approximately 267,352 sq. ft. (24,837 sq. m.). Whereas the OMB ruled a maximum height of 94.5 ft. (28.8 m) for the Mt. Sinai site, Yorkville (2001) Ltd. currently seeks about 165 ft. (50 m.) for its taller tower.

During the 1960s, Yorkville was the main destination for street-jamming visitors and flower children enjoying art galleries and around 40 nightclubs and coffee houses offering live music most nights. At the most famous of the coffee houses, The Riverboat at 134 Yorkville, world-class musicians such as Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Neil

Young, Bruce Cockburn, Buddy Guy, Lenny Breau, and others played. (The 1972 photos on the website depict The Riverboat's sign featuring Murray McLaughlin.) Yorkville was Canada's Greenwich Village, and The Riverboat was comparable to Liverpool's Cavern Club, birthplace of the Beatles, tourist magnet, and a protected heritage site.

But now, the heritage, human scale, and very character of the village are threatened. These proposed developments may, domino-like, result in the piecemeal demolition of the remaining Victorian townhouses which survived, albeit in a renovated form, in the Yorkville core between Avenue Rd. and Bay Street, from Bloor to Scollard Streets. Both proposals contravene the Urban Design Guidelines which the tax-payer funded Bloor-Yorkville Business Improvement Area (BIA), in consultation with business and residents' associations, formulated. It seems a done deal, unless immediate and massive citizen pressure and letter writing to City officials can halt the insanity.

If York Row is transformed into the "absolute disaster" Globe and Mail columnist John Barber predicted (p. A 28 on Nov. 19, 2002), Toronto may become famous again--as an international laughing-stock for rewarding the destruction of the heritage soul of Yorkville, an architecturally, culturally, and musically rich one--on its 150th anniversary.

Supporters of the retention of a human scale and of architectural and musical heritage in Yorkville are urged to e-mail Mayor Mel Lastman and all city councillors, Chief Planner Paul Bedford, Managing Director of Culture Rita Davies, and Chair Patrick Gossage of the Toronto Preservation Board as soon as possible. Or mail or fax the City Clerk, and request that the clerk photocopy and distribute your letters to all the above. In either case, a follow-up phone call to each recipient is advisable. And kindly send us a copy: saveyorkville@hotmail.com or 106-33 Hazelton Avenue, Toronto, Ont. M5R 2E3.

City Hall's address: 100 Queen St. W., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5H 2N2. The Clerk's phone number is 416-392-8016; fax number is 416-392-2980. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses of all councillors and staff are listed in the blue pages of the 2002 Toronto phone directory on page 19, and at http://app.city.toronto.on.ca/im/council/councillors.jsp Other sources of information can be found by calling Information Toronto at 416-338-0338, or checking the following internet listings: www.saveyorkville.com;or http://heritageyorkville.tripod.com / ; www.city.toronto.on.ca;www.bloor-yorkville.com; www.ryerson.ca/vtoronto/wwwsite/themes/urban/html/yorkvil.htm

SUMMARY: See our & the City's sites for applicable proposals and by-laws, and the city planners for accurate and up-to-date information. (Call M. Major (416-392-0760) for York Row and R.Crooks (392-1316) for Mt. Sinai.)

YORKVILLE IN THE NEWS:

Patricia McHugh, in Toronto Architecture, A City Guide (1985), describes York Row: "116-134 Yorkville Ave. (five double houses), 1885-86. Very new-looking old houses, just a touch too 'artful' with machine-textured brick bubbling over the exterior. Originally five separate structures, commercial modernization linked them in a row." She's since told Jane Beecroft of the Community History Project (CHP) that they're all restoreable to their 1885 elegance. Budd Sugarman, unofficial Yorkville mayor who watched as the cladding was glued on in 1972, offered to meet the developer to tell how it could be removed and how the original Yorkville-quarried bricks beneath could be repaired, but the owners refused, according to CHP's newsletter of Aug. 30, 2002.

John Barber of The Globe and Mail newspaper, on Nov. 19, 2002, on page A28, wrote "Groovy, creative Yorkville past fading fast". He quoted music writer Nick Jennings as saying that in the 1960s, "'The sidewalks were packed with people, four deep, doing the Yorkville stroll. You could just drift into any nightclub and see international stars or homegrown talent'...The original Yorkville scene didn't die a natural death, according to the author; it was 'engineered' out of existence by a thousand petty ordinances and officially sanctioned real-estate speculations-to the 'everlasting shame of Toronto City Hall'....The Riverboat...will be replaced along with all its neighbours on the north side of the street...with a hideous nine-storey hotel....it's a lost cause....'In other cities and other countries this would not be happening without serious thought'....What's happening so far, to judge from the drawings for the new hotel, is an absolute disaster. The latest compromise solution doesn't promise to be much better: Local residents have asked developer Peter Cohen to fire his architect and replace him with a fashionable design-build contractor-not even an architect-who specializes in wedding-cake chateaus for Toronto's rich and vulgar." (www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/printarticle/gam/20021119/UBARBM)

Nick Jennings, author of Before the Gold Rush, which depicted music in Yorkville in the 1960s, recently made a 3-page presentation to the Toronto Preservation Board to urge preservation of The Riverboat. The complete text is currently available under "musical history" on our website.

YORKVILLE IN THE NEWS: (bold lettering added)

Patricia McHugh, in Toronto Architecture, A City Guide (1985), describes York Row: "116-134 Yorkville Ave. (five double houses), 1885-86. Very new-looking old houses, just a touch too 'artful' with machine-textured brick bubbling over the exterior. Originally five separate structures, commercial modernization linked them in a row." She's since told Jane Beecroft of the Community History Project (CHP) that they're all restoreable to their 1885 elegance. Budd Sugarman, unofficial Yorkville mayor who watched as the cladding was glued on in 1972, offered to meet the developer to tell how it could be removed and how the original Yorkville-quarried bricks beneath could be repaired, but the owners refused, according to CHP's newsletter of Aug. 30, 2002.


John Barber of The Globe and Mail newspaper, on Nov. 19, 2002, on page A28, wrote "Groovy, creative Yorkville past fading fast".
He quoted music writer Nick Jennings as saying that in the 1960s, "'The sidewalks were packed with people, four deep, doing the Yorkville stroll. You could just drift into any nightclub and see international stars or homegrown talent'...The original Yorkville scene didn't die a natural death, according to the author; it was 'engineered' out of existence by a thousand petty ordinances and officially sanctioned real-estate speculations-to the 'everlasting shame of Toronto City Hall'....The Riverboat...will be replaced along with all its neighbours on the north side of the street...with a hideous nine-storey hotel....it's a lost cause....'In other cities and other countries this would not be happening without serious thought'....What's happening so far, to judge from the drawings for the new hotel, is an absolute disaster. The latest compromise solution doesn't promise to be much better: Local residents have asked developer Peter Cohen to fire his architect and replace him with a fashionable design-build contractor-not even an architect-who specializes in wedding-cake chateaus for Toronto's rich and vulgar." (www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/printarticle/gam/20021119/UBARBM)


Nick Jennings, author of Before the Gold Rush, which depicted music in Yorkville in the 1960s, recently made a 3-page presentation to the Toronto Preservation Board to urge preservation of The Riverboat. The complete text is currently available under "musical history" on our website.


Maureen Murray's 'This is Yorkville's last stand,' pages B1 and B4, The Toronto Star, October 5, 2002 depicts a map of Yorkville in 1853, and is excerpted: "In the I830s and 1840s, the earliest industry was made up of breweries.Brickyards then dominated Yorkville until 1890 and much of early Toronto was built with Yorkville "white brick"actually soft yellow in appearance. The Village was annexed into the City of Toronto in 1883.the small Victorian gothic style brick housesbuilt in the 1890scan still be seen on Hazelton Ave.The area captured the attention of local artists and musicians in the early '60s.Today, an unprecedented number of developments are proposed for Yorkville, including many large condominium projects.Condo project threatens to ruin Victorian charm.Save the Village of Yorkville, implored the ads Sugarman [the unofficial mayor of Yorkville] placed in The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star on June 13.If Richard Wookey had his way, the houses would have been restored to mirror the traditional Victorian charm of Hazelton Ave., which (he) can almost single-handedly be credited with preserving.[Local councillor Kyle] Rae said efforts are wasted trying to save 116-134 Yorkville Ave., which the Ontario Municipal Board in mid-1990s decided were not of historic significance.resident Maureen Malmud collected 1,450 signatures -including one from actor Richard Dreyfus-on a petition .The two residential associations and the Community History Project-heritage conservationists-joined forces with the Bloor-Yorkville Business Improvement Area and the Yonge-Bloor-Bay Association, Inc.The result is the Yorkville Urban Design Guidelines, whichdetailsdevelopment welcome in the area.When York Row Ltd. unveiled its plan for 116-134 Yorkville Ave. at a public meeting on Sept. 3, the community vocally informed company principal Peter Cohen it just wouldn't do.Cohenhad already triedsetting the building back 7.3 metres from the curb [note the OMB-approved setback is twice that; download plan 3, p.5, Bylaw No.1994-0426 in both the Picture Gallery and the Approved By-laws subsections of this site]. Cohen insists the die was castbecause they are poor candidates for restoration. "If there was something to salvage, wouldn't I be salvaging it? I'm not this mad man who just says: 'Tear it down.'" But Sugarman even found a brick manufacturer that can reproduce the houses' old Yorkville "white brick" [and reclaimed brick should be available].Hazelton Ave., from Davenport Rd. to just north of Yorkville Ave., was recently designated as a heritage conservation district."