Preservation group tries to save 'precious' buildings in Liberty Village

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Preservation group tries to save 'precious' buildings in Liberty Village

Preservationist groups are opposing redevelopment plans for a portion of Liberty Village, hoping to save what they say are historic and "precious" buildings from the the area's industrial past.

The city is considering a proposal to demolish a group of buildings along Liberty Street to make way for a 10-storey office complex.   

For more than a year, Toronto architect Dermot Sweeny has been working with the city to preserve a three-storey brick building at the corner of Liberty Street and Atlantic Avenue.

"And not just keep the facades; we would like to renovate, restore the building as best we can and keep it." Sweeny told CBC Toronto Monday.

The building dates back to the 1800s and housed the Ontario Wind Engine and Pump company. 

The large. three-storey brick portion was the head office for a windmill company. Its factory spread out over a number of smaller attached buildings grouped under the address of 58 Atlantic Ave.

Those would be demolished to make way for 10 storeys of new office space.     

Terry Demerson, a local resident, has started a petition to save the entire complex.

"There is a lot of history in the building itself. The Ontario Wind Engine and Pump company ... really were a key technology company at the turn of the 19th Century developing wind power," he told CBC Toronto. 

"How relevant is that today? They helped the entire Commonwealth. Their product of windmills were shipped to Cyprus and to India. The technology success of the company really has to be celebrated."

But Sweeny thinks the building is being celebrated in the proposed design.

"We set out to do a design that would keep the building on the corner, create an atrium space around the building and then build the new building adjacent to it and up and over."   

Jack Gibney, co-chair of the Sunnyside Historical Society, agrees the buildings need to be protected. "In a very short time people will be realizing that this is precious and very, very scarce. And a building of this quality is very rare." Gibney said.

The redevelopment is expected to go to city council for final approval sometime this year.