Views of Legislative Assembly of Ontario Building
Historic views of Queen’s Park, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario Building, will be permanently disfigured if a massive precedent-setting condo tower project is allowed to proceed.
Why it matters:
Public views of Queen’s Park and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario Building (LAOB) are the result of over 180 years of careful planning, design, and landscaping to establish a ceremonial and monumental setting for the site of Ontario’s provincial government. Among legislative precincts in Canada, the setting of Ontario’s Legislative building is the most carefully planned. The Province of Canada appropriated the land at the apex of University Avenue in 1853 and opened the current Legislative Building in 1893. It is an excellent example of a legislative precinct that fully capitalized on its position within a picturesque setting and at the head of a major thoroughfare in an urban city.
Why it’s endangered:
In May 2010, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) ruled in favour of a condo project in Yorkville by Menkes Developments Ltd. that would see the construction of two towers – 133 and 127 metres respectively – on the Four Seasons Hotel property at 21 Avenue Road, directly north of the LAOB building. If erected, these tall towers would thrust above the roofline of the LAOB and disrupt its iconic silhouette, a key element of its architectural significance when viewed from the south along University Avenue.
The Speaker of the Ontario Legislature, City Planning staff and heritage groups have all vigorously opposed the development. Prior to the OMB decision, the Ontario government’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs could have declared a “provincial interest” in the integrity of the LAOB views, thus overriding any OMB ruling.
Heritage critics pointed to comparable jurisdictions which have put in place protection for the viewplanes for their significant buildings. Beginning in 1989, the City of Ottawa established key viewpoints for important national symbols and put in place height control planes and density controls.
Both the city and the province had commissioned a detailed consultant’s study confirming the delicate historic quality of the Queen’s Park vista, and while the City of Toronto’s current Official Plan of 2006 acknowledges that significant public views require protection and management. However, policies addressing protection of Queen’s Park’s setting and significant views provided in the 1993 version of the Official Plan are no longer present. This policy content was inexplicably removed in the late 1990s when the former boroughs of Metro Toronto were amalgamated into the City of Toronto.
Where things stand:
Ontario’s Minister of Culture, Michael Chan, has said that the government will not fight the controversial OMB decision. In June 2010, Ontario MPP Rosario Marchese tabled Bill 95, An Act to prohibit the construction of certain buildings north of the Legislative Building at Queen’s Park. This private member’s bill would prohibit construction of any structure that would be visible above the roof of the LAOB when viewed from the intersection of Queens Street West and University Avenue. Passage of the bill would void the May 2010 OMB decision. Debate on this bill comes before the legislature in fall 2010. This may the last opportunity to save iconic views to Queen’s Park.
UPDATE: In October, 2013, the City of Toronto Official Plan Amendment protecting the views of Queen’s Park came into effect.
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Top 10 Endangered Places List: 2010