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Possible heritage sites given a second look

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Recommendations for heritage designations of two city buildings have been sent back to staff for a second look.

Heritage Oshawa has recommended that 39 Athol Street and 500 Howard Street be registered as properties of cultural heritage significance under the Ontario Heritage Act.

However, at a development services committee meeting, those resolutions were simply received for information.

Jane Clark, a Heritage Oshawa volunteer, told council she was “very concerned with how these recommendations were handled at that meeting.”

Clark said the items were “dealt with and dismissed in under 20 seconds.”

Speaking as a citizen and not a committee member, Clark believes these actions don’t represent a co-operative relationship with council.

“It’s frustrating and discouraging that all our efforts as volunteers…as well as all the taxpayer dollars that go to paying heritage consultants to produce research reports that go nowhere, do not seem to be achieving [our] shared goals,” Clark said.

39 Athol Street, also known as the Cowan House, was owned by founders of several key businesses in Oshawa, including the Malleable Iron Company, Fittings Limited, Cedar Dale Works, and Ontario Savings and Loans.

The building also has a long association with St. George’s Anglican Church.

500 Howard Street was the site of the Ontario Malleable Iron Company for more than a century, and later the Knob Hill Farms superstore until 2000.

However, Heritage Oshawa has recommended the heritage attributes of the building only be given to the original factory structure.

The property has been purchased by Metrolinx as a station location for the proposed Lakeshore East extension to Bowmanville.

Ward 1 City Councillor Rosemary McConkey noted she was somewhat hesitant to put a heritage designation on the buildings until hearing from the owners.

Clark said Heritage Oshawa welcomes comment from property owners but under the province’s Heritage Act this type of designation does not require their approval.

Ward 2 City Councillor Jane Hurst agreed the recommendations could have been given more thought.

“We need to be a bit better…with our advisory committees and heed what they bring forward,” hurst said.

“We need to take another look at them. It’s just a matter of process and how we can advance heritage,” she later told The Express.

A former member of Heritage Oshawa, Hurst called it a “very dedicated advisory group” that sometimes faces an “uphill battle when dealing with heritage matters.”

Hurst pointed out that a lot of work goes into the reports provided by the committee.

“It’s all justified. They are all done seriously. This isn’t some random designation,” she added.

In Hurst’s view, there’s all types of heritage in Oshawa to be considered, not just buildings.

“It is our collective responsibility to preserve it and celebrate it in any form we can.”

There are currently 29 locations in Oshawa designated to have cultural heritage value, nine of which are cemeteries.

Clark told council this is a very low number, and estimated other municipalities may have “tens, even hundreds more heritage designations than Oshawa.”

The recommendations from Heritage Oshawa have been referred back to staff.