What is a Heritage Conservation District (HCD)?
An HCD is an area of the city that is protected by a municipal by-law passed under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act (OHA), by City Council. HCDs are designated because the areas they protect are considered to be historically or culturally significant and require special care and attention in the planning process to ensure that they are conserved.
HCDs may contain multiple properties, landowners, resource types and cultural heritage values. They can be found in residential neighbourhoods, commercial areas, main streets, institutional and industrial campuses and natural areas. The organization of streets, blocks, properties, structures, landscape, streetscape, plantings, and other features of an HCD can contribute to the identified cultural heritage values of an area.
Every HCD is unique and will require special policies or guidelines to ensure its conservation and careful management. Each HCD Plan must ensure that an accepted and consistent standard of heritage conservation is met across the City, and will direct how change and conservation should be managed.
Council adopts Toronto Heritage Conservation District (HCD) Study Prioritization Report: Five New Heritage Conservation District Studies Underway!
On August 16th, 2012 City Council approved the Toronto Heritage Conservation District (HCD) Study Prioritization Report. This report identified risks to authorized Heritage Conservation District (HCD) study areas and established a prioritization system to determine which HCD studies should be undertaken first.
As a result, five priority HCD study areas were identified:
City Council has directed these studies to proceed immediately. RFQs have been issued for each of the five priority HCD study areas and work is anticipated to begin in Spring/Summer 2013.
Please visit this site regularly for updates on HCD study and plan progress and for public consultation and meeting date information.
City Council adopts Heritage Conservation Districts in Toronto: Procedures, Policies and Terms of Reference
On March 6, 2012 Toronto City Council adopted the new document Heritage Conservation Districts in Toronto: Procedures, Policies and Terms of Reference for the nomination, studying and planning of HCDs in the City. The document creates a consistent, transparent and fair approach to creating HCDs for neighbourhoods and areas all across the City.
Heritage Conservation Districts in Toronto: Procedures, Policies and Terms of Reference (pdf)
How Does an HCD Work?
HCDs ensure that the significance and character of areas with cultural heritage value are protected and conserved in the long term by managing change to the resources within it. Proposed changes to the district are subject to a permit process under the Ontario Heritage Act (OHA). City staff will review permits in relation to the District Plan and may work with the community to ensure that alterations and new construction comply with the plan, fit in and support the character of the HCD.
The OHA empowers City Council to designate a defined area of the City as an HCD by municipal by-law. Property owners within an HCD who wish to alter their property or demolish a designated structure must obtain heritage permits. Once the designation by-law is in place, City Council will issue or refuse heritage permits for alterations and demolitions under section 42 of the OHA. For appropriate alterations to properties within an HCD, City Council has delegated authority for permit approvals to the Chief Planner.
The appropriateness of proposed changes will be weighed against the HCD Plan, the Official Plan, the Provincial Policy Statement, and the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada. HCD advisory committees will also be consulted where appropriate.
Although it is primarily the attributes and features that are visible from the public realm that are of most concern in the majority of HCDs, it is important to remember that under the OHA the entire property, except for the interior, is designated. Policies and guidelines should address how alterations and additions can be accommodated on a variety of property types within a district so that its character and values are maintained over time. The conservation of a districtís cultural heritage values and character can be achieved only by carefully managing appropriate change at the individual property level, as well as on the district scale.
Nominating a Potential HCD
Nominating a potential HCD is the first step to seeking HCD designation for a neighbourhood or area. Often, HCDs are often nominated because the people who live and work in an area believe that the character and historic values of that area are unique or special and should be protected and conserved in the long term. The City may also propose areas for study and designation as HCDs.
When a group or individual seeks to nominate an area as a potential HCD, the community should organize ahead of time to gather support, create interest and help property owners to understand what an HCD could mean for the community. An organized effort for a nomination is the best way to succeed in creating a new district. HPS staff can help a nominator understand what should be included in a nomination.
Nominating a neighbourhood or area is about being able to communicate what makes it special. Before a nomination is submitted a nominator should have a basic understanding of what might make their area a good candidate for an HCD designation.
A nominator will also propose the general boundaries of the district as part of the nomination package. Although the boundaries may change if the study and plan progress, it is important to have an idea of the geographic extent of the potential HCD at the nomination stage.
A guide to preparing a nomination should be consulted and can be found in Part I of Heritage Conservation Districts in Toronto: Procedures, Policies and Terms of Reference.
Download the HCD Nomination Form (writable PDF)
Nominations can be submitted to the following address:
Heritage Preservation Services
City Planning Division
Attn: Scott Barrett, Sr. Coordinator
17th Floor, East Tower
100 Queen Street West
Toronto ON, M5H 2N2
Built Form and Landscape Survey
The built form and landscape survey is a non-evaluative record used to collect basic data about properties, resources, landscape, design features, and groupings of resources prior to the determination of the significance of a district or its resources. A survey form is needed for each property within the proposed HCD so that a full record of the district resources can be assembled.
Typically, volunteers who wish to record and learn more about their community complete the survey. Heritage conservation professionals, architects, planners, students and others can also complete surveys.
A guide to completing the built form and landscape survey can be found in Appendix C of Heritage Conservation Districts in Toronto: Procedures, Policies and Terms of Reference.
Download "Built Form and Landscape Survey Form" (excel)
How are Potential HCDs Evaluated?
To define the significance of a potential HCD, the City has established cultural heritage value and integrity criteria based on Ontario Regulation 9/06. For a district to communicate its historic sense of time and place it must have cultural heritage values that identify it as a significant heritage area and it must possess sufficient integrity to communicate those values.
The Criteria for the determination of cultural heritage value are individually sufficient so that a district may qualify for designation by demonstrating significance under a single criterion. In all cases, more is learned by identifying multiple values where they exist, but this does not mean that districts with more than one cultural heritage value are more important than those with a singular cultural heritage value.
For information on how to apply the criteria, please see Section 7 of Heritage Conservation Districts in Toronto: Procedures, Policies and Terms of Reference.
Criteria for the Determination of Cultural Heritage Value within a Heritage Conservation District
The district has design value or physical value because it,
- has a rare, unique, representative or early collection of a style, type, expression, material or construction method,
- has a rare, unique, or representative layout, plan, landscape, or spatial organization,
- displays a consistently high degree of overall craftsmanship, or artistic merit.
The district has historical value or associative value because it,
- has direct associations with a theme, event, person, activity, organization or institution that is significant to a community,
- yields, or has the potential to yield, information that contributes to an understanding of the history of a community or area,
- demonstrates or reflects the work or ideas of a planner, architect, landscape architect, artist, builder, designer or theorist who is significant to a community.
The district has contextual value because it,
- possesses a character that defines, maintains or supports the areaís history and sense of time and place,
- contains resources that are interrelated by design, history, use and/or setting,
- is defined by, planned around, or is a landmark.
The district has social value or community value because it,
- yields information that contributes to the understanding of, supports, or maintains a community, culture or identity within the district,
- is historically and/or functionally linked to a cultural group, an organized movement or ideology that is significant to a community,
- plays a historic or ongoing role in the practice or recognition of religious, spiritual or sacred beliefs of a defined group of people that is significant to a community.
The district has natural value or scientific value because it,
- has a rare, unique or representative collection of significant natural resources
- represents, or is a result of, a significant technical or scientific achievement.
The following two integrity criteria must be addressed to provide a basis for designation:
Visual, functional or historical coherence is reflected in the consistency of resources related to the cultural heritage values and character of the district. It can be determined by analyzing resources in a district to understand if there are common thematic, architectural or associative characteristics that unify, relate to, and communicate the cultural heritage values of the district.
Authenticity means that a district can convey its cultural heritage values through its authentic attributes. To be authentic a district should retain most of its original or appropriate materials, layout and structures related to its identified values. Where alterations and infill exist they are generally sensitive, compatible and reinforce the cultural heritage values of the district.
Existing Heritage Conservation Districts Across Toronto:
Cabbagetown-North (PDF 3.1 MB)
Cabbagetown-South (PDF 6.5 MB)
Cabbagetown Northwest (PDF 2.3 MB)
Draper Street (PDF 1.3 MB)
Harbord Village (PDF 5.1 MB)
Harbord Village Phase 2 (PDF 4.6 MB)
Kingswood Road South
Queen Street West
Riverdale Phase 1 - Part 1(PDF 2.52 MB), Part 2 (PDF 710 KB)
Riverdale Phase 1 (PDF 11.9 MB)
South Rosedale (PDF 7.1 MB)
Union Station District
Wychwood Park (PDF 1.5 MB)
Weston Phase 1 (PDF 2.5 MB)
Yorkville-Hazelton (PDF 4.4 MB)
- Blythwood (PDF 564 kb)
- Cabbagetown-Metcalfe (PDF 2.6 MB)
Heritage Conservation Districts Authorized for Study:
For further questions about HCDs please contact Scott Barrett, Sr. Coordinator, Heritage Preservation Services at:
Heritage Preservation Services
City Planning Division
17th Floor, East Tower
100 Queen Street West
Toronto ON, M5H 2N2