The Star By: Christopher Hume Urban Issues, Published on Fri Apr 26 2013
First came the mass demolitions of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s that reduced whole swaths of the downtown core to a giant parking lot. Today many of the buildings under construction are on the asphalt spaces for which so many historic structures were destroyed. If the city hadn’t been so free with the wrecking ball back then, we wouldn’t need to build today’s Toronto seemingly from scratch. Even the great Union Station came close to being razed. Designed to impress, it was conceived as one of the great train terminals in Canada, if not North America. When finally unveiled in 1927 — railway and bureaucratic bickering delayed its opening by fully seven years — it ranked right up there on the growing city’s list of landmarks. As Edward, Prince of Wales, said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, “You build your stations like we build our cathedrals.” Yet less than 50 years later, Union Station had been declared obsolete and was threatened with demolition. In 1972, train travel was in decline and the country’s two main railroads — Canadian Pacific and Canadian National — declared their intention to build a massive convention centre on the site. The building was saved by the huge outcry that greeted the announcement; city council voted to reject the redevelopment proposal. Today Union Station, the busiest transit hub in the country, is undergoing a massive $665-million revitalization $665-million revitalization. More than 250,000 commuters use it daily, which means its role in the life of the city has never been more critical. Of course, not all buildings are Union Station; most of the heritage structures we tear down are more modest in their architecture and purpose. But unlike the grand terminus, they can be altered to meet changing needs and tastes. Read more.
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