Proposed demolition fuels fears

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Don’t take it down unless they can build — and fast.

That’s the message from a London heritage group, which is questioning whether a proposed highrise at 150 Dundas St. will ever be built, and worried an application by Rygar Corp. to tear it down will leave a gaping hole in the city streetscape.

“My concern is this will become a vacant lot. Rygar does not have a proven track record. They have not built anything of this scale in their history,” said Mike Bloxam, president of the London office of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario.

When Tricar Group tore down three yellow-brick heritage buildings on Talbot Street, its Azure condominium went up, fast. Bloxam wants the same pace for this site.

“We hate to see them come down but if they do, we want them replaced in a timely fashion.”

Rygar Corp. wants to demolish 150 Dundas St. to make way for a $60-million, 200-unit highrise just steps from Fanshawe College’s new downtown campus, which the tower will be built to serve.

John Rodgers, Rygar president, dismissed any notion the site will sit vacant, and that he does not have the track record to build.

“We are not buying this to have vacant land, we are buying it to build,” said Rodgers.

The building now is occupied and he would be “foolish” to take down a revenue-generating business to create a vacant lot, he added.

“If I don’t build there, I am killing revenue,” he said.

As for not building anything of that scale, Rodgers also is in the midst of building on the former Camden Terrace site, on Talbot Street north of Fullarton Street, as it was approved for a massive 700-unit multi-tower residential development.

The demolition of remaining buildings on the downtown site will happen in October, and after that the land will be excavated and cleaned and construction can begin, he said. “We are moving forward on it.”

Bloxam admits the building at 150 Dundas is of limited heritage value, but he is more concerned with what will be built to replace it and that it is built soon.

“There is not a huge hue and cry over the building, but this is about the character of the neighbourhood,” said Bloxam.

The city has done all it can to ensure the Dundas street building will not be torn down in vain, said Michael Tomazincic, city planner.

It has tied the demolition permit to a building permit, saying Rygar cannot tear down until it pledges to build.

It has also determined the site not be used as a parking lot.

“You can never have 100 per cent assurance, but we did the best we could to provide as many certainties as possible,” said Tomazincic.

“It is the best we can do with the tools that we have, to ensure there is building.”

Rodgers has no concerns about tying the demolition permit to a building permit, as he will build on the site, he pledged.

Bloxam, who submitted a letter to the city’s planning and environment committee that meets Monday, wants any building on site to be limited to about 12 storeys so as not to dwarf buildings on the street.

But that is not going to happen, said Rodgers. “We need higher density and it is zoned for 90 metres.” 

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