Colin McConnell, Toronto Star
In a growing city, one is used to the demolition by neglect practiced by greedy, rapacious developers to get around the rules preserving historic buildings; just ignore them long enough and the roof will fail, the water will get in and they will eventually be good for nothing. This doesn't happen in a University, where the landowners hold their assets in trust for future generations, respect the past and treasure traditions.
Or does it? At Canada's largest University, a row of perfectly charming Victorian houses are about to become another condo site. As Chris Hume says in the Star, "It is an urban tragedy. What's unfolding here is the disturbing spectacle of a city tearing itself apart, destroying itself, killing the very things that give it its character and constitute its identity....It's time we understood that heritage represents a rare resource, a civic asset, not simply an obstacle on the way to a developer's bottom line. Our willingness to sacrifice our history at every opportunity reveals a worrisome lack of self-confidence and sophistication."
But the University of Toronto doesn't stop there.
Just north of Toronto, the University is peddling 185 acres of greenspace surrounding the David Dunlap Observatory, built in 1935 by Mathers and Haldenby and enclosing a 75 inch telescope that can still do good work, even if the city has grown up around it. The forest around it is a naturalist's wonderland, and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada says the observatory would make a great community resource to provide astronomy outreach. But the Astronomy Department would rather be on a mountain in Chile and can get a hundred million bucks from developers who will pave the site over.
Great universities treasure their assets, they don't sell them to the highest bidder. But this is Toronto and it isn't great.