Heritage Conservation Districts – More Stories of Success

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Toronto, January 10, 2013 - The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) has completed the second phase of a study on Heritage Conservation Districts across Ontario, and once again determined that they do indeed work.

Building on the findings of Heritage Districts Work! Phase 1, which examined the oldest 32 districts in the province. Phase 2 Heritage Conservation Districts – More Stories of Success continued to look at well-established districts. The 32 districts examined were designated in or before 2002 and are found in the following municipalities: Cobourg, Hamilton, Ottawa, St. Catharines, Markham, Toronto, Centre Wellington, Orangeville, London, Stratford, and the Region of Waterloo. 

First phase results were confirmed. Most districts have met their goals, real estate values in Heritage Conservation Districts generally rise more consistently than surrounding areas, and people are overwhelmingly satisfied with living and working in districts.

Specifically, 26 of the 32 districts met all their goals. However, almost a third of districts did not have clear goals stated in their district plans. The goal used in these cases was an implied intent of heritage building conservation and maintenance. The lack of clarity shows a need for refinement in the future.

People are overwhelmingly satisfied with living or owning property in a district. When asked,  461 of the 857 people surveyed (over half) said they were very satisfied. An additional 232 people stated they were satisfied. In total, 693 people (80%) are happy living or owning property in a district. Combined, the dissatisfied respondents represent less than 4% of all those surveyed.

Of the 871 properties in the districts that had two or more sales, 369 showed above average sales history trajectories. While 297 had average trajectories, only 204 performed below average. In short, the evidence says there is a strong real estate market.  

Interestingly, when all 64 districts were compared it was discovered that the longer a district operated the better they performed. When the districts from Phase 1 and 2 are combined and are sorted by performance score, trends emerge. At the highest end are a cluster of districts from phase 1, the oldest districts in Ontario (designated before 1992). The opposite is also true, at the lowest end of the scores are a block of districts from phase 2 (newer districts between 1992 and 2002).

Comparison of all 64 also revealed that a district’s success is largely attributed to the management of the area at the City level. However, active citizen groups also play a fundamental role in education related to district designation and operation. Following the completion of both phases of study, 12 districts were found to have education issues. Of these 12, only two had active citizen groups. This is a logical finding as unlike City staff, an active citizen group is consistently present in the district, as they reside or volunteer there. Although formal education is generally the mandate of these groups, they also serve to educate residents informally through casual interactions. In other words, community groups are an integral part of community education and the maintenance of successful districts.

This project was carried out by the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO), an Ontario based not-for-profit organization, on behalf of the hundreds of volunteers in communities across Ontario all of whom work passionately to maintain the built culture of our province. The ACO was funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and  partnered with several other volunteer groups including Heritage Ottawa and Community Heritage Ontario. Dedicated volunteers surveyed residences in the Heritage Conservation Districts and provided energy and purpose to the project. The efforts of the volunteers were assisted and coordinated through cooperation between the ACO and the Heritage Resources Centre (HRC) at the University of Waterloo.

The reports for each district, as well as the summary report, can be accessed on the Heritage Resources Centre’s website.

You can learn more about the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, and donate to future research initiatives at: www.arconserv.ca

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For more information please contact:

Kayla Jonas

Project Coordinator

kajonas@uwaterloo.ca

519.888.4567 ext. 36921

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