John Motz House, 56 Weber Street West (left) and 52 Weber Street West, Kitchener
107 Young Street, Kitchener
Background: The development for a medium rise building at the corner of Weber and Young was proposed in 2018 (see above photos). At first, the proposal was to demolish three buildings. Each had significant heritage attributes and historical contextual value. Following opposition to the plan by ACO NWR and others, the proposal was changed so that the Weber Street properties were to be demolished and the Young Street property was to be temporarily moved and returned to the site. Record articles are here and here.
These properties are inside the Civic Centre Heritage Conservation District. They also have significant heritage attributes. In addition, 56 Weber was the home of Kitchener Mayor John Motz (1830-1911) who was also a sheriff and the publisher of the Berliner Journal, precursor of the Waterloo Record.
The development was approved by Council on August 4, 2020, subject to a number of conditions.
Below is the written text of the last submission by ACO NWR at the August 4th meeting.
SUBMISSION: Heritage Kitchener Meeting – Monday, August 4, 2020
RE: HPA-2020-V-001 & HPA-2020-V-002 – request to demolish protected heritage buildings in the Civic Centre Neighbourhood Heritage Conservation District
The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) North Waterloo Region branch would like to share a few thoughts on the Heritage Permit Applications being discussed for the proposed demolition of the two buildings at 50-52 Weber St W and 56 Weber St W.
ACO is opposed to the demolition or irreversible alteration to those buildings which our community has already chosen to protect.
When City Council considered the demolition of two homes next to Schneider Haus in 2017, they assured us that this “should not be considered as a precedent for the demolition of other homes in approved heritage districts.”
In 2018, council refused the demolition of two historic buildings on Queen St S.
In her memo about this project, Senior Heritage Planner Michelle Drake laid out in very strong language her “significant concerns with the proposed demolitions.” She cited “the clear goals, policies and guidelines within the [District] Plan, which strongly discourage demolition.” She went on to state, the “Plan requires that protection, retention and adaptive reuse of existing buildings be given priority over redevelopment.”
Heritage Conservation Districts (HCD) are created after much consultation with area residents, plus expertise from City planning staff and paid consultants. Boundaries are carefully and thoughtfully delineated to preserve our built heritage and provide stability for an area deemed worth protecting, often one thought to be under threat in future.
The Civic Centre Neighbourhood HCD is of significant cultural heritage value given the heritage attributes found within its architecture, streetscape and historical associations. The designation of the Civic Centre Neighbourhood as a HCD was meant to protect and preserve the heritage assets and character that exist in the area.
When proposals come forward that could destroy the very thing that Districts were meant to protect, area residents have good reason to wonder about the future of their neighbourhood. It has the result of introducing instability into an area. This negatively affects neighbouring properties, creating a domino effect, reaching well beyond the boundaries of the redeveloped property.
Local, Regional and Provincial Policy discourage demolition of protected heritage properties:
- each of these buildings is already designated under the Ontario Heritage Act
- the Planning Act, Provincial Policy Statement, Ontario Heritage Toolkit, and the Official Plans of both the Region of Waterloo and the City of Kitchener all agree – that cultural heritage resources are to be conserved
The City’s Zoning By-law, REINS, PARTS and the proposed Secondary Plan all suggest that possible future uses of these properties could be more intensive than what’s there now. But the District Plan is clear in saying: “There may be rare occasions where infill development or limited integrated redevelopment is possible in the future [and this project is neither infill nor integrated] or where redevelopment is required due to loss of buildings through fire, severe structural decay, etc.”
All of these documents have been designed in case these “catastrophic events” occur, to give flexibility so that appropriate rebuilding can take place, not the other way around, not specifically to allow redevelopment
These HCD properties were purchased solely for the purpose of redevelopment, which explains why, in the years they have been owned by the current developer, no improvements and little maintenance have been carried out. Tacoma Engineers advises that both buildings are structurally sound and in good condition. While limited localized deficiencies were found, the assessment suggests they can likely be resolved with routine maintenance and/or minor restoration effort.
Nothing “catastrophic,” just simple neglect.
Does it make sense to demolish Group B and C buildings within a protected Heritage Conservation District to construct a Group D, eight-storey building, one that contributes nothing to the heritage character of the district? We think not.
The possible approval of these heritage permit applications is a dangerous precedent, indicating to developers that it’s open season on heritage properties in Kitchener. This is a good time to send the message that our built heritage must be protected.
Kitchener has over 65,000 individual properties, but only 230 are Listed on the Municipal Heritage Register, just over 1,000 are located in Heritage Conservation Districts and fewer than 90 are Individually Designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act. Many of these properties are threatened with redevelopment. It is a limited resource that is gradually being lost. Help us protect the few resources we have.
It’s the mandate of Heritage Kitchener to be the voice for the protection of our built heritage. You have an opportunity here: take a stand and recommend council refuse the Heritage Permit Applications for the demolition of 50-52 Weber St W and 56 Weber St W.
Who are we? Through advocacy and direct action, the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario has been a leader in preserving Ontario’s architectural and environmental heritage since 1933, with 20 branches currently operating in the province. The local ACO North Waterloo Region branch, formed in 1980, encourages the conservation and re-use of structures, districts and landscapes of architectural, historical and cultural significance through education and advocacy. We speak on behalf of about 100 local members in the communities of Kitchener, Waterloo, Wellesley, Wilmot and Woolwich.
Thank you for your consideration,
President, ACO NWR
Submitted electronically: Monday, July 27, 2020
To: Dianna Saunderson, Committee Administrator, firstname.lastname@example.org Cc: Councillor Sarah Marsh, email@example.com