Corner of Prescott and Water
High-rises sprawl across many big cities in all directions, symbolising modernity and housing and business and “progress” of a kind. Our little big city of St. John’s received one of its first downtown high-rises in the form of the TD (Toronto Dominion) Place office complex in 1981—now owned by Fortis Properties. At 10 storeys, by Toronto standards it is far from a skyscraper, but it still serves to block out a choice slice of city- and harbour-view from the corner of Prescott and Duckworth/Water Streets.
Recent controversies over condo development and tall buildings in the downtown core aren’t new battles for City Hall. In December 1980, Mayor Dorothy Wyatt unveiled the cornerstone of what was to become TD Place, estimated to cost Scotia Developments Limited $10 million dollars to build. Many local residents opposed the new structure, particularly its location, for which the Royal Stores Limited building was demolished. The new building’s proposed height violated the city’s Heritage By-Law, instituted in 1977, which identified certain regions of town as areas of architectural and historic importance worth preserving for their own unique character. The Heritage By-Law included, among other regulations, a stipulation for height restrictions on developments in the downtown core.
City heritage preservation initiatives in the mid-1970s sought to revitalise run-down areas of the city, to stimulate economic growth through renovations, encouraging building ownership and fostering a potential for tourism and cultural initiatives in heritage-designated areas.
City Hall briefing sessions and debates related to the development of TD Place were packed and sometimes cancelled due to overcrowding. A 1980 article says “Councillor Wells stated… he was aware that the development could be in violation of the Heritage By-Law but that he ‘couldn’t care less.’”
Some of the early proposals for the building also included a parking structure.
A time capsule of sorts supposedly rests behind the TD Place cornerstone containing historical documents related to the building, including those of council meetings, court proceedings, and others.
— Erin McKee
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