Exhibition Place – Cultural Heritage Landscape Assessment
Exhibition Place located at 2 Strachan Avenue, is owned by the City of Toronto and managed by a Board of Governors, and contains:
- buildings included on the City of Toronto’s Heritage Register
- numerous commemorative plaques and works of art
- landscaped areas and open spaces
- iconic entrances
- known archaeological resources and areas of archaeological potential
Exhibition Place is a special and unique waterfront asset located in the City of Toronto. It hosts over 350 events a year and attracts 5.3 million visitors annually. It is a visually prominent site defined by iconic entrances, connected to a network of waterfront attractions and is well known to Torontonians and people all across the province and country. It is also a place that through its history, has presented opportunities to its site planners, users, and city inhabitants. It has showcased critical periods and crowning achievements in Toronto’s history, and which are also significant within the Province of Ontario.
It is a place nestled on the north shore of Lake Ontario that would have attracted Indigenous populations. It is the site where the French chose to establish a defensive and commercial fort in the 1700s. It is here that the British sought to expand their defensive position on Lake Ontario in the mid-1800s. It has also been the place where the city and the province created a hub to promote agricultural education and excellence beginning in the nineteenth century. This site then became a place for making grand gestures when it hosted the Provincial Agricultural Fair in 1878 and was then selected in 1879 to annually host the Toronto Industrial Exhibition. Beginning in the early twentieth century, and continuing until the 1970s, site organizers embarked on ambitious building programs that would support the site’s permanent and continued use as the Canadian National Exhibition and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. The complexes and features established during this period signaled that Toronto and Ontario’s capital had become a world class and cosmopolitan city.
Cultural Heritage Landscape Assessment
The City of Toronto retained Archaeological Services Inc. (A.S.I.) in collaboration with Brown + Storey Architects to prepare a Cultural Heritage Landscape Assessment of Exhibition Place to appropriately identify and assess the site’s cultural heritage resources, including its cultural heritage landscapes and archaeological resources. This study was undertaken to evaluate the site’s cultural heritage value and to recommend, as appropriate, conservation strategies that will support master planning activities for the future of Exhibition Place.
The study was undertaken in four key phases and included a public, stakeholder, and Indigenous engagement program. The results of this assessment conclude that Exhibition Place is a provincially significant cultural heritage landscape that incorporates a rich layering of designed areas that have gradually changed and coalesced over time to create a unique complex located in Ontario’s capital city and which has organically evolved in relation to its strategic location on the Lake Ontario shoreline.
Overall, the site retains integrity in terms of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association. It continues to maintain a physically prominent and iconic position on Toronto’s waterfront and is strongly characterized by and comprises elements and features that have endured across the site over time and which are associated with its defensive origins and design as an exhibition complex. It clearly expresses itself as a unique exhibition complex that is rare in the Province of Ontario and within North America. As a whole, the site retains extensive original and significant building fabric and forms, landscape features and relationships, known archaeological resources, and open space coverage patterns that make it a provincially significant cultural heritage landscape. Some of the site’s elements, and connections between them, have been disconnected in places or their quality degraded. However, these alterations are neither irreparable nor irreversible. A carefully planned management framework for the site can improve these deficiencies by applying rehabilitation treatments that seek to achieve continuity across the site and creation of strong relationships between the site’s distinct internal areas and heritage attributes. Such an approach will ensure that this provincially significant cultural heritage landscape is conserved and reinvigorated as an evolving and important waterfront asset in the City of Toronto.
Key Study Recommendations
- Integrate results of this assessment into the forthcoming Master Plan, ensuring that conservation of the site’s cultural heritage value is identified as a primary goal and objective of the master planning process.
- As an interim measure, include 2 Strachan Avenue on the City’s Heritage Register using the recommended Statement of Significance and review the ten existing Part IV Designations to consider their consolidation into a single Part IV Designation for the entire property.
- Identify Exhibition Place as a significant cultural heritage landscape in the City of Toronto’s Official Plan through an Official Plan Amendment which would identify the site’s cultural heritage value and objectives and policies for conservation as part of future Master Plans, transit planning, and environmental assessments undertaken at the site. Designation of Exhibition Place in the City of Toronto’s Official Plan would also include a statement of significance for the site and proposed boundary identified on a map or schedule of the Official Plan. At this time, the Exhibition Place cultural heritage landscape is defined as including all lands associated with 2 Strachan Avenue in the City of Toronto.
- City of Toronto Planning to develop a Conservation Plan to conserve the site as a significant cultural heritage landscape. Urban Design Guidelines will also be developed to conserve the site.
- Heritage Impact Assessments will be submitted as part of a complete application for development proposed on, or adjacent to, Exhibition Place.
- The City of Toronto may explore undertaking a Heritage Conservation District Study, as a future option, to determine if Part V designation under the Ontario Heritage Act is appropriate for the site. This option may be appropriate to conserve and manage an expansive cultural heritage landscape that includes Exhibition Place, Ontario Place, Coronation Park, Gore Park, and the Waterfront Trail.
- Where the site is protected as a significant cultural heritage landscape in the City of Toronto’s Official Plan or as a Heritage Conservation District under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act, an advisory group should be established to provide direction and input on proposed interventions at the site. Such an advisory group would consist of a range of site stakeholders including leaseholders, neighbourhood association representatives, members of the general public, representatives of Indigenous communities with an interest in the site, and representatives of the Canadian National Exhibition and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
The staff report on Exhibition Place – Cultural Heritage Landscape Assessment and Next Steps of Master Plan is at the April 24, 2019 Toronto and East York Community Council and provides:
- a summary of the Cultural Heritage Landscape Assessment (CHLA) completed for Exhibition Place to afirm its importance in informing the on-going Master Plan exercise for Exhibition Place
- outlines the next steps for the Exhibition Place Master Plan process
Please contact the Project Lead if you want an electronic copy of the consultant’s report, Exhibition Place Cultural Heritage Landscape Assessment Report.
Committee and Council
Exhibition Place Official Plan Amendment Subcommittee – November 30, 2016
The Exhibition Place Official Plan Amendment Subcommittee adopted, Exhibition Place – Status Report on Ongoing Studies and Initiatives from the Director, Community Planning, Toronto and East York detailing City Planning’s ongoing review of a proposed Official Plan Amendment for Exhibition Place, inclusive of a Cultural Heritage Assessment.
City Planning held a Community Consultation Meeting on November 28, 2018 to present details of the study, findings to date and the timeline moving forward. The presentation slides on the Cultural Heritage Landscape Assessment from the Community Consultation Meeting is available.
If you have any thoughts, insights, or historical records that will assist in understanding the cultural heritage value of Exhibition Place then please contact John Duncan, contact information is on the side of this page.