Lawrence Park West – A Proposed Heritage Conservation District
The members of the Lawrence Park Heritage Committee are trying to ensure that the older homes that define the character of the century-old original suburb of Lawrence Park are preserved, restored and renovated and not torn down. We would like to meet with all neighbours on the West side of Mt. Pleasant from Lawrence Avenue south to Glengowan (this area being the “heart” of the original Lawrence Park) and try to engage support for a nomination of assessment for a small heritage conservation district to be named Lawrence Park West.
Why is Heritage Important?
Heritage is one of the many aspects of society that connects us but is one of the few that we can visibly see. Heritage is a fundamental feature of any great city, it provides a community with a sense of belonging and a connection to the people and the history around them. As the City of Toronto Heritage Preservation Services puts it, “[Heritage Conservation Districts] are designated because the areas they protect are considered to be historically or culturally significant and require special care and attention in the planning process to ensure that they are conserved. HCDs may contain multiple properties, landowners, resource types and cultural heritage values. They can be found in residential neighbourhoods, commercial areas, main streets, institutional and industrial campuses and natural areas. The organization of streets, blocks, properties, structures, landscape, streetscape, plantings, and other features of an HCD can contribute to the identified cultural heritage values of an area. Every HCD is unique and will require special policies or guidelines to ensure its conservation and careful management. Each HCD Plan must ensure that an accepted and consistent standard of heritage conservation is met across the City, and will direct how change and conservation should be managed.”
HCD Nomination Process (a quick guide)
- A nomination is submitted to the City’s Heritage Preservation Services (HPS).
- HPS reviews the nomination for completeness and determines whether the area is a good candidate for an HCD study.
- A community meeting is held to present the nomination and receive feedback from residents and property owners. (This meeting was held on October 28, 2015 at Blythwood Road Baptist Church.)
- HPS will report to City Council on the nomination with recommendations to study, or not to study the area.
To learn more about the City’s heritage and the HCD process you can visit:
If you click on “The HCD Study Blog” tab, you can scroll down to the “Lawrence Park West HCD Nomination Information Session” heading where you can view the slideshow and display panels presented at the meeting held on October 28, 2015.
Information about the City’s existing HCDs is available online. For example, to access the South Rosedale HCD click here.
On the South Rosedale HCD page, there are links to other existing HCDs – for example, North Rosedale, Blythwood Road, Wychwood Park, East Annex, Cabbagetown.
The Preserving Values in Lawrence Park committee of the Lawrence Park Ratepayers’ Association distributed this useful list of Frequently Asked Questions via e-mail to LPRA members in the Lawrence Park West study area.
Frequently Asked Questions
Old Lawrence Park – the area south of Lawrence, north of the ravine, west of Mount Pleasant and east of Yonge – is being assessed by City planning professionals to see whether the area is worthy of study. That’s step 1 and that’s what’s currently taking place. The heritage designation process was explained at a public information meeting which City Planning held in October and there is lots of information online about that process for residents who weren’t able to come to the public meeting (check out the links below).
If City Planning decides Old Lawrence Park merits study, it will recommend proceeding to the Toronto Preservation Board and North York Community Council. If both bodies agree with City Planning, then we will be in a queue awaiting the study to see if our neighbourhood is worthy of Heritage Conservation District (HCD) designation and protection. There is a long list of neighbourhoods across Toronto awaiting consideration by the City; we are waiting to see if we are even in the queue to be considered.
If Old Lawrence Park merits an HCD study, what happens?
City planning professionals, with the assistance of a heritage consultant, will conduct extensive research and analysis and seek community engagement. Their goal is to come to a recommendation on whether the streetscape of our neighbourhood is worth protecting.
This process can take two or three years. Homeowners in the area will be kept aware of all important dates and there will be extensive public consultation.
It is a lengthy process to get designated as a Heritage Conservation District. If Old Lawrence Park is considered a neighbourhood worth studying, gets to the top of the queue for a study and, lastly, is deemed worth designating, a ‘district plan’ will be developed which will cover the design characteristics and features specific to the streetscape in Old Lawrence Park. This plan will help manage change and growth and ensure that development proceeds in a way that respects the existing streetscape. It will also prevent infill development that is out of step with the neighbourhood (such as the apartments proposed for Weybourne and Lawrence, pictured above and described below).
It is worth noting is that there will be some homes that ‘contribute’ to our heritage and others that are ‘non contributing’. Homeowners wanting to renovate who have a home which ‘contributes’, will need to make sure the renovations preserve the street-facing facade. Expansion to the rear and renovations to the interior will not be affected by the designation and will simply have to comply with the current building code, as they do now.
Homeowners in homes which do ‘not contribute’ may renovate or tear down their home and the design of the newly built house will need to conform to the design features of the Old Lawrence Park plan.
But all of this is long in the future; while the City decides whether to study our neighbourhood, the current planning and permitting process stays in place.
Does heritage affect property values?
MPAC (the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation which assesses and classifies all properties in Ontario for tax purposes) has found no evidence that designation negatively impacts property values.
In fact, significant studies completed by academic, impartial institutions have found that heritage designation increases property values in Ontario. The most extensive studies, Robert Shipley’s University of Waterloo study and research done by Ryerson University, have found:
- A distinct and generally robust market performance in heritage property values with 74% doing better than the average.
- Sales of heritage properties are as good or better than general market trends.
- Heritage properties tend to have resilience to downtrends in the general market.
It’s tough to say but the groups most threatened by this change are the developers and real estate agents who make their income by tearing down existing homes and infilling with new, larger properties. For the realtors, a double sale is more lucrative than a single sale and subsequent renovation. For the developers, a renovation that preserves the front facade of a home is more expensive than a new build.
If Old Lawrence Park is recommended for designation, will the design characteristics of our neighbourhood be unique to us or the same as other neighborhoods that have already been protected?
The City has put together ‘district plans’ for many neighborhoods around Toronto that are neighbourhood-specific. In short, the unique features of Old Lawrence Park will be catalogued in our ‘district plan’ and protected when homes are being renovated. That combination of features will be unique to Old Lawrence Park.
Other Toronto neighborhoods which are protected in this way include Rosedale, Wychwood Park, Cabbagetown, Yorkville and the Annex (there are over 120 across Ontario).
What about maintaining my home?
If Old Lawrence Park were to be designated, for homes that are ‘contributing’, general maintenance, things such as painting trim or repairing the roof, does not usually require any additional approvals (unless a building permit is required).
Structural changes to features that are considered to contribute to the designation (like adding a porch) would require consultation with the City.
How can residents provide their input on the designation of Old Lawrence Park? Can non-residents influence the process?
The City is currently assessing whether Old Lawrence Park merits study and we’ve already had one community consultation (on October 28, 2015). If the City decides to authorize the study, there will be extensive public consultation as part of the process.
Anyone can write the City Clerk’s office, or attend in person, in regard to items that go before the Toronto Preservation Board or Community Council.
How is our councillor involved?
Our Councillor is working hard to ensure that all perspectives are heard on this issue. If the City decides to authorize a HCD study, because of the anticipated increase in property values, Councillor Robinson may be deemed to have a personal conflict of interest since she owns a property in the area. If that occurs, she will request that another Councillor assist residents and represent the community and public interest for any decisions at City Council.
How can you learn more?
The City of Toronto has a helpful guide on Heritage Conservation Districts. You may also want to look at the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport’s Ontario Heritage Tool Kit.
You can also contact Sharon Hong, Heritage Planner at 416-392-2653 or email@example.com or Tamara Anson-Cartwright, Program Manager, Heritage Preservation Services, at 416-338-1083 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS OF SUPPORT FOR PROPOSED LPW HCD
- Jane Pepino – lawyer and resident of South Rosedale HCD
- Bruce Grantier – a local resident
- Valentine Lovekin – a local resident
- Tom Vandewater – a local resident
- David Caspari – a local resident
- William Greer – noted heritage expert and architect