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January 14, 2010

Protect Ontario’s political heritage

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The Legislative Assembly Building must dominate the view from University Ave. from Queen St. and all points north. To have the silhouette of our most important civic building – the prime symbol of provincial democracy – overwhelmed by taller commercial buildings will say more than we care to admit about the relative importance of public and private interests in Ontario.

A comparable urban situation is The Mall in Washington. Try to picture President Barack Obama’s inaugural speech with a commercial building rising behind the U.S. Capitol. Those Washington views have been carefully protected for generations, as have views in Ottawa.

Our national symbols, the Parliament Buildings on the plateau above the Ottawa River, are carefully protected by a system of height controls developed collaboratively by the City of Ottawa and the National Capital Commission. These controls prevent any building rising above the silhouette as seen from several key vantage points along the Ceremonial Route. The views of our Legislative Assembly Building from University Ave. deserve similar protection.

Queen’s Park and University Ave. have a shared history. University Ave. was originally called College Ave. because it was purchased and laid out as the ceremonial approach to King’s College, the first building of what later became the University of Toronto. As William Dendy wrote in Lost Toronto, “it was laid out for the grandest possible effect … as a processional approach.” It was not until 1859, when the City of Toronto obtained a 999-year lease for both the avenue and Queen’s Park, that any streets were permitted to cross this ceremonial approach.

Toronto Star

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