Emotions are running high in Collingwood, AGAIN, in regard to the Admiral Collingwood Place development slated for the corner of Hurontario and St. Marie Streets in the downtown core. The site is located at the southern gateway into the Heritage Conservation District. (Patience, we’re getting to some pictures in a sec.)
This contentious site was once home to the town’s original high school which was built in 1874 and then rebuilt after a fire in 1925. It eventually became an elementary school which many of today’s local residents fondly recall having attended. In 2003, a new school was built on another site and the existing property was sold to local developers.
In 2005, the developers applied to change both the Official Plan designation and zoning by-laws for the lands to permit a retirement facility and a six-storey, mixed use, residential/commercial building. There was significant public opposition as the site is located within Collingwood’s Heritage Conservation District which basically restricted new projects to having a form, scale and height of existing buildings along Hurontario Street with building heights to be a maximum of 11 meters or, 2-3 storeys in the Downtown core. Despite this restriction and despite a heritage impact assessment saying the building did not conform, the council of the day gave their approvals to the plan.
An appeal to the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board) was launched by a ratepayers group (full disclosure: I was integrally involved) and during that time, a new council was also elected. The new council DID NOT revoke any development approvals however, they did over turn the previous council’s approval of the Heritage Impact Assessment, thereby nullifying the basis of the appeal to the OMB. They subsequently negotiated a compromise with the developer allowing a 5 storey building with the 5th storey set back from the road to reduce impact on the streetscape.
Reportedly due to economic times, the development did not proceed beyond the digging of a large and unsightly hole on the site. The public became increasingly agitated and a sentiment to see it built in some form took hold. Another election was fought and a new council now took on the political responsibility for seeing the project move forward.
This is a long and complicated story with many twists and turns but in a nutshell, the developer, knowing he had a sympathetic council, came back to the table with a proposal for a 6 storey, plus partial 7th storey altered plan to be approved.
Public emotion is again raging and passionate. There are those who wish to see this project built at any cost and, there are those who fear it will jeopardize the existence of Collingwood’s respected Heritage Conservation District. In the last week, the discussion seems to be turning toward the design of such a massive building on a prominent site.
Here is a rendering of what the developer has proposed:
Here is an excellent example of a new condominium being built on a very similar site in Etobicoke. In my view, there is simply no contest as to which one stands out as an iconic, heritage style building:
This week-end, I received an anonymous email with several mock-ups attached that show the scale and density of the existing proposal. The writer refers to the proposed structure as a “monster” and says, “The look and feel of a town is very delicate and a sense of place in one’s mind is easily destroyed.” I would certainly agree and share the same sentiments. The writer also attached a number of “professionally generated images” of the building to give people a perspective on just how much this will change our sense of place:
The Town is holding a public meeting on December 5th to discuss amendments to the Heritage District which would allow the present plan to proceed. It is sure to be an interesting evening.