Construction proposal for “crown jewel of Markham”

By Connor Simonds, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Attention all Unionville residents and history enthusiasts. The fate of several historic buildings in the Unionville Heritage Conservation District hangs in the balance as the city reviews a proposed residential development on Main Street.

While some believe the development will enhance the area, others express concerns about the impact on parking, flood plains, and the community.

The development includes the construction of two stand-alone, four-storey residential buildings, residential rear additions to historic buildings, and a new mixed-use three-storey building. The development is located on Main Street Unionville (west side) between Carlton Road and Fred Varley Drive and is within the Unionville Heritage Conservation District.

The subject lands are divided into north and south development parcels, and the proposed development includes the retention of four historic buildings, the demolition or relocation of a historic barn, and the demolition of an existing non-heritage building. The proposal includes 63 dwelling units, 82 parking spaces, and 2,127 m² of retail space.

The owner submitted the Official Plan and Zoning amendment applications in support of the conceptual residential development. Staff deemed the applications complete on September 13, 2022, and the 120-day period set out in the Planning Act before the owner can appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal for a non-decision ended on Tuesday, January 12, 2023.

The applications are currently under review by the city and other external agencies. Staff have identified a preliminary list of matters that will be assessed through the review of the applications.

These include conformity and consistency with provincial, York Region, and City Official Plans, community benefits charges by-law, parkland dedication, and more. The proposed development is subject to By-law 122-72, as amended, which permits commercial uses, dwelling units above the ground floor, and a maximum building height of 10.7 metres or two storeys.

The owner proposes to amend the Markham 2014 Official Plan to permit the conceptual Proposed Development, which includes four-storey, stand-alone residential buildings, not having frontage on a public street in the south parcel, and residential units on the ground floor behind commercial uses in the north parcel.

During the public meeting held on February 27, 2023, Marshall Smith, an agent for KLM Planning Partners Inc., outlined the fate of the historic buildings on the site. The barn on 160 Main Street is intended to be relocated, while the Blacksmiths Bistro building and the Old Firehall Confectionary at 166 Main Street and 170 Main Street, respectively, are intended to remain. The Queens Hotel on 178 Main Street will have its heritage components retained, while the optical shop at 182 Main Street will remain with an addition added. Finally, he added, “186 Main Street, which is known as Il Postino restaurant, a non-contributing building in the Heritage Conservation District (…) will be removed and reconstructed.”

Jáska Zérczi, a speaker from the Unionville Residents Association (URA), expressed concerns about the proposed development, including the significant reduction in public parking and the lack of green areas due to the footprint of the north and south buildings.

Further, Zérczi commented that “(the URA) would like to see an approval from the emergency services regarding access to the building […] similarly from the city regarding garbage transport, storage, and removal […] and would like to see the laneway be a shared space with equal access for all traffic including pedestrians.”

The URA also requested a shadow analysis of the proposed buildings to ensure students at Parkview Public School are not affected by blocked sunlight and expressed concern about the size of the south building and its impact on local residents.

Other issues raised by the URA included snow storage and removal, water drainage, the negative impact of underground parking on the floodplain to the east, sustainability, and affordable housing targets.

On the other hand, real estate agent Sylvia Morris, a long-time resident of Unionville, endorsed the development, stating that she, “believes it will enhance Main Street.”

As the proposed residential development for Unionville continues to be under review by the city and external agencies, it is clear that there are both supporters and opponents of the project.

The fate of historic buildings and concerns about parking, green areas, and the impact on local residents are just a few of the issues that have been raised. As the review process continues, it is important that all perspectives are considered and that a decision is made that is in the best interest of the community. We will continue to follow this story and provide updates as they become available.


Photo: The barn on 160 Main Street is intended to be relocated.

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