Please designate 95 St Joseph St. as a Heritage Site

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Dear Sir or Madam,

As a member of the local community I would like to add my voice in support of the application, presently under consideration, which seeks a Grade IV Heritage Designation for the two Ernest Cormier-designed buildings located on St. Joseph Street: The Cardinal Flahiff Basilian Centre and Carr Hall at 95 and 100 St. Joseph St. respectively.

I am very concerned that the current planning application to redevelop the site at 95 St. Joseph does not sufficiently preserve the heritage value intrinsic in this building. Moreover, it negatively impacts the heritage character of the surrounding St Michael’s College Campus, which the architect sought to preserve through his building designs and master plan for the area. The building at 95 St Joseph Street was an inspiration for other neighbouring buildings and was a fundamental part of Cormier’s overall vision for the area.

The developer has proposed to preserve the existing façade, but then overwhelms the low-rise frontage with two towers of 15- and 39-storeys immediately behind and above it. In Toronto, intriguing buildings are too often reduced to their façades in favour of developers chasing profits. As with most architectural designs, there is certainly more to this building than its façade, and now, with the increasingly vertical development of our city, buildings such as this one can and should be viewed in their entirety. 

As proposed, the development would destroy the unique E-shaped footprint of the building. This silhouette provides for two gracious courtyards that form an integral part of Cormier’s design, while simultaneously delivering precious green space. The planning application also destroys the original 1914 Newman Chapel, which Cormier was careful to preserve in his own design plans for the building.

Even the jewel in the crown of Cormier’s design, the chapel - which is the only other element currently proposed to be preserved by this planning application - would be entombed within a 15-storey podium, significantly reducing the light it presently enjoys. As the chapel would be repurposed and deconsecrated, many of the unique elements designed by Cormier would be removed.

The proposed development, in terms of both aesthetics and scale, is jarringly out of character with the remainder of the heritage area of the surrounding University of St Michael’s College Campus. This area includes two of the oldest buildings on the U. of T. campus and a significant number of heritage-designated properties. The development also contravenes the U. of T. Secondary Plan, which calls for a transition from the tall buildings of the City’s core into the low-rise U. of T. campus. By contrast, when the Sorbara campus residences across the road were under development less than 20 years ago, both the city and the developer worked together to respect the historical context of the area and the result was a building in harmony with its environment.

Cormier’s work earned him a designation as a National Historic Person – one of only seven Canadian architects to earn this honour. Cormier’s work in Toronto was limited to just three structures, two of which form a part of the St. Michael’s campus. I urge you as a member of Toronto’s Heritage Preservation Services to make every effort possible to preserve, intact, Cormier’s contributions to our city and to ensure that the character of this precious and unique area of Toronto is not destroyed.

 

Sincerely,

A concerned member of the local community