In 2010 the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) decided to shutter Briar Hill Junior School (near the corner of Briar Hill Avenue and Dufferin Street) and the property, including a schoolhouse built in 1927, was put on the market. The City of Toronto's Parks, Forestry & Recreation department purchased the parcel of land at the southwest corner of Dufferin and Briar Hill for use as a public park; the balance of the site was eventually sold to Madison Homes, a North York developer, for $6.3 million (about a million dollars over its evaluation). Madison Homes soon presented a 136-townhome development proposal for the site to council, but several zoning requirements weren't met. The City's Planning Division found over a dozen issues needing resolution, and they recommended City staff schedule a community consultation meeting to discuss the application. Presumably, that should have put a freeze on any further work on the site.
Looks like the City's Buildings Division didn't get that memo, though, since they issued Madison Homes a demolition permit on October 25, giving the developer clearance to trash the old school building—over neighbours' strong objections, and before any community consultation had taken place. Once news of the permit came to light, Ward 15 City Councillor Josh Colle wrote a letter to Madison Homes's Miguel Singer; Councillor Colle advised Singer that the Briar Hill site had been nominated for Heritage preservation status, and asked the developers to hold off on demolition until the heritage review was conducted. Instead, without replying to Councillor Colle—and still with no approved building application for the site—on November 9th demolition began and the 85-year-old schoolhouse was knocked down. Whoops. So why were the Planning Division's recommendations ignored outright? In late October/early November Mayor Rob Ford's shenanigans were front-page news, and on November 5 he famously admitted to having smoked crack cocaine. Did the focus on Crackgate have everyone at City Hall so distracted that Briar Hill's beloved old schoolhouse was a casualty?
· Toronto Bylaws Ignored as Developer Bulldozes Historic School [CBC]
· Rob Ford: 'Yes, I Have Smoked Crack Cocaine.' [Toronto Star]
· Briar Hill Update From Ward 15 City Councillor Josh Colle [joshcolle.ca]
· Staff Report on Zoning Amendment Application [City of Toronto]
· Briar Hill by Madison Homes [BuzzBuzzHome]