Protecting Peterborough’s Heritage – Part 2

In Protecting Peterborough’s Heritage Part 2, let’s examine how property owners can proactively work with Peterborough’s Heritage Preservation Office (HPO) to help maintain the unique character of our city.

Many older properties have a story to tell, and by listing your building on the Heritage Register you are taking an important first step in identifying it’s significance. Having your property listed on the register is a thoughtful first step in protecting it. Listing is different from Designation and it is important to know the difference between the two classifications. 

Listing is a much simpler process, and anyone can recommend a property that they believe to be of historical significance to the HPO. Buildings – residential, commercial, institutional or industrial – can be identified by city staff, council or other community members; it doesn’t necessarily have to be an owner.  In fact, if someone other than an owner starts the process of listing, there is no legal obligation under the Ontario Heritage Act (OHA) to notify the owner, but in Peterborough it is our policy to notify owners prior to listing their property.

The Heritage Act sets out the rules that Council must abide by before voting to list a property on the Heritage Register.  A Council must consult with its municipal heritage committee (the Peterborough Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee or PACAC in the case of Peterborough), and cannot list a property if an application for a demolition permit has been made.

Historical red brick YMCA building in Peterborough with crane in the background as it undergoes adaptive reuse to condos.
The historical YMCA is currently undergoing adaptive reuse to create market rate housing in downtown Peterborough.

One of the reasons to list your property is to prevent it from being torn down.  If an application for a demolition permit is made to the Chief Building Official on a Listed property the application is subject to a 60-day waiting period.  During this time, PACAC will provide information to Council to help them decide if the status of the property should be elevated from Listed to Designated to protect it from demolition.  It is also important to note that a municipality cannot List or Designate any properties owned by a public body; these public entities are identified in the OHA.

Designating a property is a more involved process and places more restrictions on alterations to the character of the property. Both Designated and Listed properties appear on the city’s online Heritage Register. Before contacting the HPO, you can have a look at the Ontario Heritage Toolkit which includes a guide for heritage property evaluation.  If your property fits one or more of the criteria, you can visit the Peterborough HPO located at 210 Wolfe Street, or submit a letter to the HPO requesting that PACAC consider your property for either heritage Listing or Designation. 

PACAC will review your submission and prepare a Statement of Significance which describes the heritage attributes of your property. There is NO fee for the research and evaluation completed by PACAC and HPO staff and it is a wonderful opportunity to learn a great deal about your property. You can see examples of these statements on the city’s Heritage Register.

A Heritage Designation means that a property meets the criteria listed in the Ontario Heritage Act and it is therefore a legal designation. Properties must be researched and evaluated based on provincial regulation to determine whether they are of cultural heritage value or interest and worthy of designation.  Recommendations from PACAC come to council for approval in the form of a staff report, and designation is accomplished through the creation of an accompanying bylaw. Then, your property will go on the city’s heritage registry and be designated legally as a heritage property.  

The Heritage Register is basically an inventory of properties, structures and buildings that have been determined by council to be architecturally, culturally or historically significant.  The Heritage Register is updated as properties and other structures become Listed or Designated.

That’s right; buildings can be designated but so can neighbourhoods or districts within the city, and structures like bridges.  In Peterborough, examples of other types of heritage designation include the Hunter Street Bridge, James Stevenson (Riverside) Park, Confederation Square, the Avenues, west of the downtown in the city’s old west end, and the city’s pumping station on Water Street. 

Depicts the Nogojiwanong mural underneath the Hunter street bridge in Peterborough to show contemporary enhancement and use of a build heritage structure.
The underside of the historic Hunter St. bridge combines contemporary public art with built heritage (Artist: Kirsten McCrea). The bridge gains new life as the underside becomes a canvass and shaded picnic area linked to the parkland beneath its span. This is an excellent example of how to add new dimensions to built structures while conserving heritage features.

Designation can be used to stop demolition and to control major alterations that might otherwise harm specific heritage features. The goal of heritage designation is to manage change on heritage properties to ensure they retain the historic characteristics that make them special.  Designation helps preserve these important buildings so that they can continue to be enjoyed by the community.

For more information on please visit the Heritage Property Designation section of the Arts, Culture and Heritage page on the City’s website or contact the HPO at: 705-742-7777 Ext. 1489.  The Heritage Property page on our website contains information and links to many resources including tax rebates, grants, and a downloadable version of the updated Property Owner’s Guide to Heritage Designation.


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