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The Marian Shrine of Gratitude,
from talk to action

TORONTO – Toronto Preservation Board (TPB) will meet today, October 10, to determine whether it will recommend to City Council that 3100 Weston Rd., commonly referred to as “Rivermede”, be added to the City’s Heritage Registry. Its own staff report recommends it do so.
That may complicate the development plans of speculator-buyers AvranceCorp Developments and their Mortgagor (DandGmanagementInc).

They registered the purchase of the property on August 22, 2023. City records indicate a total purchase price of $16.5 million, with the Mortgagors supplying $12.5 million of that sum.

Those records, publicly available, also show that, in 2017, MPAC had attributed an assessed value of $21.75 million to the site for taxation purposes.

The public is invited to delegate at the meeting, but the property had already been included in the Inventory of Heritage Properties by former City of North York Council on October 6, 1997, for its “cultural value and interest”. On September 27, 2006, it and other such properties were included on the City of Toronto’s Heritage Register.

That might explain, in part, why City Officials insisted that lawyers for both Purchaser and Seller were asked to sign that they understood the fulness of the Planning Act as it relates to 3100 Weston Rd.

Rivermede comprises a Tudor Revival estate home and surrounding landscape, set on a large lot that extends into the Humber River Valley. Estimates of the lot size vary from 13.5 acres to 20 acres. Over time, the Estate became a “monastery” for the priests of the Order of Saint Basil the Great.

They built a red brick, Modernist style former school and chapel building complex for the swelling [Italian] Catholic community that was relocating to Northwest North York in the nineteen sixties. Many of its former students exercise leadership positions in the marketplace today.

Currently, it houses the Carmine Stefano Community Centre. In 2005, they approved the construction of the Marian Shrine of Gratitude by volunteer devotees in the rear gardens of the monastery.

Once the property changed owners, in August of 2023, staff at the TPB reviewed the Registry (Listing Statement) and determined that the property continues to meet criteria related to design, historical association, and context, as adopted by the former North York Council.

The staff report to the PB notes that they have amended the Listing Statement (October 2023) to reflect the values of the property more comprehensively. They propose the inclusion of 3100 Weston Rd, and, by extension, the Marian Shrine of Gratitude.

To mitigate any confusion, the Report adds that municipal heritage registers “may include properties that have not been designated [if] Council believes they [have] ‘cultural heritage value or interest’ and meet one or more of the provincial criteria for determining whether they are of cultural heritage value or interest. 3100 Weston Rd./Marian Shrine of Gratitude does.

It is not a complete victory for the devotees. The Ontario Heritage Act (the Act) now also limits listing to a period of two years. Nonetheless, properties on the Heritage Register must be conserved and maintained in accordance with the Official Plan’s Heritage Policies.

In other words, the Act protects against demolition and gives City Council an opportunity to determine whether the property warrants conservation through designation under the Act, should a development or demolition application be submitted.

Devotees may have greater hope after TPB makes its determination.

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