401 Bay Street (formerly Simpson Tower) | 143.86m | 33s | Cadillac Fairview | WZMH

thecharioteer

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See Interchange's post #102 from November 26, 2015, with a quote from Mary Macdonald, head of Heritage Preservation Services (my bolding):

I have double-checked everything. When the designation was done for the property (1976), explicit reference was made that the Simpson's Tower was not included. The original listing (1973) was for the older portions only as well. Given that in 1973 the Simpson's Tower was only 4 years old (7 in 1976) it is understandable that there wasn't enough perspective on the modernist movement to inform an understanding of value. Of course, the designation could have been amended to include it after time had passed, but the necessity to do so wasn't on anyone's radar.

All Hudson's Bay needed was a building permit. They applied for one and got one. No other planning process was necessary. I cannot speak to the matter of the design review panel, though it would be atypical for a building permit application to be reviewed, and no link with the planning division to facilitate.


That's because the "planning" within her department wasn't (and still isn't) being done.
 

UtakataNoAnnex

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If I was The City, I would force the developers to put it back to original design in a heart beat. And bill them by the hour for us having to look at this shite until they do...

...I'll say though, this is obviously complete fantasy of mine to which has no legal teeth, among other things. But I can't say enough of how disgusted I am to what they did to this place. /sigh
 

adma

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See Interchange's post #102 from November 26, 2015, with a quote from Mary Macdonald, head of Heritage Preservation Services (my bolding):

I have double-checked everything. When the designation was done for the property (1976), explicit reference was made that the Simpson's Tower was not included. The original listing (1973) was for the older portions only as well. Given that in 1973 the Simpson's Tower was only 4 years old (7 in 1976) it is understandable that there wasn't enough perspective on the modernist movement to inform an understanding of value. Of course, the designation could have been amended to include it after time had passed, but the necessity to do so wasn't on anyone's radar.

All Hudson's Bay needed was a building permit. They applied for one and got one. No other planning process was necessary. I cannot speak to the matter of the design review panel, though it would be atypical for a building permit application to be reviewed, and no link with the planning division to facilitate.


That's because the "planning" within her department wasn't (and still isn't) being done.
Well, to be fair, the "on anyone's radar" includes those from without her department as well as those from within. And it is true that some "settling-in" time would have been required before including the Tower within the designation in 1973/76, given how such things were set up then. And over time, the fact of the designation was more or less casually taken for without-checking-the-fine-print granted as "probably" including the entire block, perhaps because of the superficial reference to 1969 alterations. So btw/that, and a broader planning process that mitigated against flagging or design-panel scrutiny for an "alteration" such as this one, it was a victim of a perfect storm of loopholes.

And to repeat what I've been saying all along: what *really* would or should have addressed a matter like this wouldn't have been just casually amending the original designation (which really *did* have to be something motivated from without, given how HPS is an arm's-length organization: "you ask, and we shall do", that sort of thing), but something along the lines of broader-reaching City Hall Precinct heritage planning--maybe as a sidebar to or extension of the NPS redesign process over the past decade and a half, but also with a bow to something like the Union Station HCD which *did* include recently-built and to-be-built properties as part of a more comprehensive, holistic "heritage planning" vision...
 

thecharioteer

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Well, to be fair, the "on anyone's radar" includes those from without her department as well as those from within. And it is true that some "settling-in" time would have been required before including the Tower within the designation in 1973/76, given how such things were set up then. And over time, the fact of the designation was more or less casually taken for without-checking-the-fine-print granted as "probably" including the entire block, perhaps because of the superficial reference to 1969 alterations. So btw/that, and a broader planning process that mitigated against flagging or design-panel scrutiny for an "alteration" such as this one, it was a victim of a perfect storm of loopholes.

And to repeat what I've been saying all along: what *really* would or should have addressed a matter like this wouldn't have been just casually amending the original designation (which really *did* have to be something motivated from without, given how HPS is an arm's-length organization: "you ask, and we shall do", that sort of thing), but something along the lines of broader-reaching City Hall Precinct heritage planning--maybe as a sidebar to or extension of the NPS redesign process over the past decade and a half, but also with a bow to something like the Union Station HCD which *did* include recently-built and to-be-built properties as part of a more comprehensive, holistic "heritage planning" vision...
However, in no way is Heritage Preservation Services an "arm's length organization", (like Heritage Toronto or the Toronto Preservation Board); it is an integral part of the Planning Department and their Manager reports to the Director of Urban Design. My complaints relate to their priorities, which do not include the preservation of modernist buildings and have focused on such dubious exercises as the "batch listings" in North Toronto instead of acting on such ideas as a City Hall Precinct (and don't get me started on their support for Hotel X at the CNE).
 

adma

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However, in no way is Heritage Preservation Services an "arm's length organization", (like Heritage Toronto or the Toronto Preservation Board); it is an integral part of the Planning Department and their Manager reports to the Director of Urban Design. My complaints relate to their priorities, which do not include the preservation of modernist buildings and have focused on such dubious exercises as the "batch listings" in North Toronto instead of acting on such ideas as a City Hall Precinct (and don't get me started on their support for Hotel X at the CNE).
They're "arm's length" insofar as they're assigned to be bureaucrats, not activists. They work w/what they've been dealt with; they don't step forward with "uh-oh, you'd better look at this" unless somebody's approached them to do so. And in this case, nobody made such an approach until it was too late. They, in and of themselves, are blameless when it comes to this particular case; nobody preemptively flagged this to them as something of concern. And unfortunately, because of lingering megacity fallout, they're waist deep in all sorts of "other stuff". But if they were given power to be pro-active, I do not see why they would *not* have addressed this, particularly had they been preemptively informed of what was afoot.

And because of that "bureaucrats, not activists" element, the priorities often aren't their own, they're those of the elected authorities and community groups whom they serve. Thus such gestures as the batch listings...*and* the fact that said batch listings themselves disregard "modernist buildings" in their midst. That isn't by HPS's making, that's by Matlow & Co.'s making.

And likewise, it would have required someone from the outside w/political clout to advocate for a City Hall Precinct. Nobody did. Nobody thought of it. Because nobody foresaw something like this happening.

Yes, I'm "distributing the blame", with an undertone of "the enemy is us".
 

Obsidian

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Before
22860988987_702b234be3_h.jpg

After
20210108_105158-jpg.293093
 

AlexBozikovic

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And because of that "bureaucrats, not activists" element, the priorities often aren't their own, they're those of the elected authorities and community groups whom they serve. Thus such gestures as the batch listings...*and* the fact that said batch listings themselves disregard "modernist buildings" in their midst. That isn't by HPS's making, that's by Matlow & Co.'s making.

This is absolutely not the case. From my reporting, it seems HPS have a high degree of autonomy and latitude.

You might guess that all those main-street storefront listings were engineered by councillors; you would be wrong.

There are exceptions. Sometimes a councillor will recommend a specific building for designation. But the overall shape of heritage policy in Toronto right now is quite tightly controlled by Heritage Preservation Services.

As for this specific building; a study of buildings associated with the Parkin office would have caught it. So would a study of important 20th-century buildings. But HPS doesn't do that sort of thing. They generally doesn't focus on architecture per se, nor on anything post-WW2.
 

adma

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This is absolutely not the case. From my reporting, it seems HPS have a high degree of autonomy and latitude.

You might guess that all those main-street storefront listings were engineered by councillors; you would be wrong.

There are exceptions. Sometimes a councillor will recommend a specific building for designation. But the overall shape of heritage policy in Toronto right now is quite tightly controlled by Heritage Preservation Services.

As for this specific building; a study of buildings associated with the Parkin office would have caught it. So would a study of important 20th-century buildings. But HPS doesn't do that sort of thing. They generally doesn't focus on architecture per se, nor on anything post-WW2.
The "generally doesn't focus upon architecture per se" part is important, whatever the date.

However, when it comes to said main-street storefront listings, one has to remember that the scope of what can plausibly be viewed and beheld through a "heritage" lens has exploded over the past half century, and a lot of today's heritage listing/designation infrastructure is really designed for more of a prima donna focussed era. And it's only fairly recently that the obnoxious NIMBY implications of such expanded scope have loomed to the point of leading to "heritage run amok" questioning--but until then, there was actually something refreshing about the notion of our "scope of historical beholding" expanding to include local storefronts and ex-Kresges and the like, and not just your requisite pre-Confederation or "Century Home" obvious landmarks. So measured against *that* expansive reality, the viewing of our urbanscape, our cultural landscape, in historical-accretion terms, the batch listings make sense--the only quibble you could have w/HPS is from a "they could have said no" standpoint. But the way things are equipped these days, they're absolutely qualified to make a case for these properties. And what's "engineered by councillors" (and community groups) isn't so much what is included, as what is *excluded*--that is, HPS being pressed into being hired guns on behalf of a strictly "prewar streetscape". Likewise re the Rosedale HCDs maximizing the VictorianEdwardianGeorgian while skirting over stuff like the Sun House (and NB I'm looking at that in "reverse argument" terms--not insofar as the Sun House demolition could have been avoided, but insofar as what makes the rest of the designated-prewar Rosedale fabric so extra-special that it ought to be insulated from the same).

In fact, the *real* problem with our "expansive scope" era is that it leads to a truly, dauntingly top-heavy circumstance of *what* HPS can plausibly handle. So, practically speaking, they can only tackle what they're assigned to do. It's not so much about blind spots from within as "hired gun" logistics reflecting the blind spots from without...
 
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adma

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Or when it comes to the "generally does not focus upon architecture per se, nor on anything post-WW2" point: maybe the best illumination of that is the fact that this has been listed since 1973, while Davisville PS just a stone's throw away was never listed and consequently demolished.


Yet, this is how it's *always* operated--"pioneering settlement" given priority over contemporary expression. And that's not necessarily a bad thing--I mean, as much as one might regret Davisville PS's demolition, you're not going to get much heritage sympathy by suggesting that *this* should have been sacrified instead. Today's optimum would be "both/and" rather than "either/or"--and of course, therein lies the problem, because the stock of "both/and" is infinite...
 

adma

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And yes, it is built into the structure of HPS. But the problem is more with absence (of initiative) than presence (of hostility)--and unlike, say, Montreal, there's very little, or halting, interplay with an architectural-community brain trust. Most of the "community members" who've reported to it and defined its parameters have tended to be of the parochial local-activist sort. They're good for HCDish stuff, or faux versions thereof a la the batch listings--but generally speaking, they don't have the chops to really grasp what "expansive scope" is about. They're in a "blind, unless reminded" circumstance--it's what happens in a town where the matriarchal guru is Jane Jacobs rather than Phyllis Lambert. Things become more "pokey" than cosmopolitan in overreaching outlook. And in the case of the Simpson Tower, there's no real "community" to speak of, other than the generalized, "remote" one of architectural experts. The commissioned studies HPS does is dry reports to council. They're not assigned to be an "authoritative presence"; they're only mirrors of a broader problem out there.

And sadly, when it comes to modernism, the "parochial local activist" types tend to be followers, not leaders. Which is how they came to snooze on the Sun House, even as something worth singling out in HCD terms, until they were "reminded"--through evidence that wasn't even accounted for in the original HCD report--and by then, it was too late.
 
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UtakataNoAnnex

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In the end, while I can appreciate there may not have been much love for this building before the makeover, we'll now be staring at this new soul sucking clown suit for the ages in the name of "progress" after the fact. Somewhere down the decsison making line there was an epic /fail from preventing this sort of thing from happening. And that really should never be.
 

adma

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In the end, while I can appreciate there may not have been much love for this building before the makeover, we'll now be staring at this new soul sucking clown suit for the ages in the name of "progress" after the fact. Somewhere down the decsison making line there was an epic /fail from preventing this sort of thing from happening. And that really should never be.
Even the "not much love" took more the form of taking-for-granted or casual ignorance, as well as broader-reaching trickle-down anti-modernism. Whether "active" in the Prince Charles/Justin Shubow sense, or "passive" in the stereotypical sense of "if it looks pre-1950, it's heritage; if it looks post-1950, it's dated".

Plus the fact that we're dealing with a lot of later-gen thinking within the commercial real estate and development industry that really views built fabric--particularly modern-era built fabric--in terms of something that needs constant "refreshing" and "renewal", much like mall retail. A sort of aesthetic software/hardware upgrade. It parallels how these days, new home buyers in older neighbourhoods like Leaside are likelier to rebuild (and all too often w/similar regrettable aesthetic results, architecturally and contextually--and it doesn't matter whether it's McMansion or McModern), whereas some 40 years ago they were likelier to leave well enough alone. They're also less likely to be conversant with the cultural networks and coordinates and symbioses that informed past "heritage-conscious" infrastructure. Meanwhile, younger cohorts that *once* might have been fresh-perspectively up in arms over stuff like this happening are more concerned with fashionably woke/retribution-related issues, and conserving office-tower modernism of the relative recent past is the least of their concerns. So we're dealing with a concern that's fallen btw/ several stools. (Heck, I've read numbskull kill-the-rich opinionating along the lines of "if it takes the billionaire class to save our modern monuments, then we'd be better off demolishing them".)
 

adma

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Also, when it comes to "cultural networks and coordinates and symbioses": it seems to me that some 30-40 years ago, the dialogue over such matters tended to be more "professional"--and what that reflected raised the overall tenor of judgment. But since then, things have coarsened, whether through reality-show carbuncle-bashing or through the "democratizing" and fanboy-enabling effect of social media like, well, UT. That is, you don't have to be "informed" to voice your judgment anymore.

In fact, when I think of it, this renovation is a little bit like a young development LARPer's fantasy rendering of a "refreshed" version of a "tired and dated" Simpson Tower come horrifyingly to life. Like the architectural answer to this...

 

thecharioteer

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1964 (TPL)

tspa_0035407f.jpg


400-foot Simpson's Tower unveiled. E. G. Burton, chairman of the board of the Robert Simpson Co. Ltd., Controller Herbert Orliffe, Mayor Philip Givens and Allan Burton, president of Simpson's, look over a model of the 400-foot office tower the store plans to build on the southeast corner of Queen and Bay Streets. The tower was unveiled at a press conference in the Mayor's office today. Tower will top the New City Hall.​

Darrell, Dick
Picture, 1964, English
 

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