London city staff and heritage advocates are calling for council members to refuse a developer’s request to demolish two brick heritage houses on Dufferin Street to make way for a large apartment building in the downtown core.
A developer has plans to build a 652-unit, mixed-use apartment building which includes a nine-storey podium, a tower that is 40 storeys tall and a second tower that is 29 storeys tall. The development is slated for 100 Fullarton St. and will occupy a large chunk of the downtown block bordered by Fullarton, Talbot, Ridout and Dufferin streets.
Rygar Properties had plans for the project approved by city council before selling to another developer, Old Oak Properties, in 2019. Those plans call on the developer to work two groups of heritage buildings on the block into the final design of the new building.
- 479-489 Talbot St. A group buildings known as Camden Terrace. After a fraught debate, council allowed this row of brick buildings to come down, but required the developer to build a “commemorative monument which interprets a range of the significant heritage attributes of the Camden Terrace front facade.”
- 93-95 Dufferin St. An unusual double brick house of two different architectural styles (Italianate and classical). The developer was required to preserve the building in place “until such time as partial removal is necessary to facilitate Phase 3 of the proposed redevelopment” and incorporate the houses’ “significant heritage attributes” into the new building’s final design. The house at 93 Dufferin St. was designed by London’s first engineer Samuel Peters, who lived in the house in the late 1800s. In the approved plan, the north and west facades of the houses were to be braced and left in place while the remaining portions were to be removed as the new structure was built behind them.
In exchange for requiring Old Oak to save as much of the facade of the Dufferin houses as possible and rebuild the facade of Camden Terrace, the city agreed to allow the developer to exceed standard limits on height and density, a common process of large planning applications called bonusing. The city granted final approval in September and excavation and foundation work is already underway.
Now Old Oak has applied to demolish the Dufferin Street houses, citing an engineer’s report that says the exterior brick may not be stable enough to withstand partial removal. The report says bracing the buildings during construction will be “a very expensive exercise with a high potential for failure.”
In its application, Old Oak has included plans to rebuild the Dufferin Houses after they’re removed, similar to the approach taken with Camden Terrace.
Also, the developer is now requesting that the rebuilt Camden Terrace facade be added to the exterior of the frontage on Talbot Street, instead of being located inside a glass-enclosed lobby as described in the plans approved in September.
However, heritage advocates are opposed to allowing the Dufferin Street houses to come down. The planning committee has received 20 letters opposing the demolition. Also, 15 people have requested delegation status to speak in the public participation segment of Monday’s planning committee meeting.
Jennifer Grainger is the past president of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and has written to oppose the demolition request.
“The city needs to step up and take some reasonability with old buildings,” said Grainger.
“The original agreement with Rygar should apply to the new land owner,” she added. “We would like the city to make an effort to get Old Oak to keep as much of 93 and 95 Dufferin as possible.”
Grainger says if the developer moves ahead with demolition, the city should revoke its decision to allow more height and density. Grainger said many heritage advocates were unhappy to see the Camden Terrace buildings come down, and said the developer should not get a similar concession with the Dufferin Street houses.
“The conservation of 93-95 Dufferin Street would enhance Old Oak’s proposed development and should be viewed by them as an opportunity for creative design rather than a nuisance to be flattened,” she wrote in a letter to the committee.
CBC News reached out to Old Oak Properties for comment Friday but did not receive a response.
City staff are recommending Old Oak’s request to demolish the houses be refused. However, that’s only a recommendation to council, which has the final decision.
The city’s planning committee will consider the developer’s application at its Monday meeting.