Vista-marring condos to go up behind Queen’s Park

Vista-marring condos to go up behind Queen’s Park

Toronto’s thirst for condos proves unquenchable (Image: Ronnie Yip) 

The pink palace that houses the Ontario Legislature is about to lose a bit of its charm. Yesterday, Dalton McGuinty said the construction of two high-rise condo towers behind the provincial legislature wouldn’t meet any further opposition from the provincial government, much to the dismay of legislative Speaker Steve Peters. The crusading Peters has been fighting the 44- and 48-storey towers tooth and nail recently, complaining the buildings would diminish the “grandeur and importance” of Queen’s Park by adding an unattractive touch to the otherwise regal view up University Avenue.

At Peters’ behest, the province tried blocking the condo towers at the Ontario Municipal Board and in court but lost on both occasions. The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario has Peters’ back, and there have been measures in other regions of Canada to protect historic buildings from commercial real estate projects. For instance, in Ottawa, the Parliament buildings and the Peace Tower are protected through a height restriction of 300 feet; likewise in Victoria, where the city has established a zoning circle around the provincial legislature.

With a provincial election in October, McGuinty is making it clear that he doesn’t want to challenge mayor Rob Ford, at least not over a heritage issue, let alone the controversial Transit City plan. In this case, the premier insists he doesn’t want to “overturn the expressed desire of the people of Toronto.” Apparently, Torontonians are all about condos over composition.

A palpably frustrated Peters spoke to the CBC:

“I just can’t understand why when you’ve got the most important building in the province of Ontario and the opportunity to protect it forever, why the government won’t step in,” he said.

“I have done everything that I possibly can, but I believe that we’re failing the citizens of Ontario by not protecting this in perpetuity.”

The government, however, isn’t failing Menkes Developments Ltd., the real estate company behind the two towers that will be replacing the Four Seasons Hotel on Avenue Road.

• Highrise condos behind Queen’s Park to proceed []
Ontario speaker loses fight to protect Queen’s Park vista [Globe and Mail]
McGuinty: Won’t Try to Block Condos [AM640]