140 buildings and one bridge lose heritage register protection – for now

The Chief William Commanda Bridge just after its opening in August 2023, with a repair module moored beside it. (Brett Delmage/The BUZZ)
The Chief William Commanda Bridge just after its opening in August 2023, with a repair module moored beside it. (Brett Delmage/The BUZZ)

This article was updated from the print version to reflect City Council decisions on April 17.

Alayne McGregor

The Chief William Commanda Bridge heads the list of 141 Somerset Ward properties that were removed from the protection of the city’s Heritage Register this month.

The properties are in the Dalhousie (western) section of the ward and include 16 houses on Arthur, nine on Booth, 18 on Cambridge North, 13 on Elm, 16 on Primrose, nine on Rochester, 16 on Spruce, plus many more.

The Commanda Bridge is referenced under its former name of the Prince of Wales Bridge, and given that it is owned by the city, is unlikely to be at much risk.

The city’s Built Heritage Committee approved the list on April 9, and City Council endorsed that decision without debate on April 17.

Being on the Heritage Register provides interim protection from demolition for properties of cultural heritage value or interest which have not been designated (a higher level of protection).

However, the city is now being forced to remove hundreds of properties in all wards because of the provincial Bill 23, which changed the rules so that properties can only stay on the register two years instead of indefinitely.

If those properties are still on the register after 2024, they will be removed and the city will not be able add them back on for five years. If the city removes them now, it can return selected properties to the list for another two years. Staff are also moving to designate their highest-priority properties on the register under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Dalhousie Community Association consulted on list

David Seaborn, the chair of the Planning and Development Committee of the Dalhousie Community Association (DCA), said the association was given a list of properties that the city hopes to have designated this year, and none of those has been removed.

This list “concentrated on properties at greatest risk of loss due to development pressures,” he said. The DCA also recommended adding another eight properties to that list and dropping three.

“We are pleased that the list that Heritage hopes to get designated has not been whittled down, yet, but are concerned that city resources may not be adequate to get that job done by the end of 2024. If they expect not to be able to get them all designated by December, we assume, and expect, that those from the ‘hoped to be designated list’ that don’t get designated will also be removed from the registry and then re-added in a new Heritage Registry in January.”

But even if those properties are designated, they are “a mere drop in the bucket of the hundreds of Dalhousie properties which will be lost from the Heritage Registry in December,” he said.

“We fear those de-registered properties will be unprotected and lost to public awareness for years to come, the blame for which lies with the provincial government.”

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