Toronto heritage developer dies in plane crash

Toronto developer Paul Oberman’s plane crash death has shocked friends and admirers of his warm personality and devotion to historic buildings.

“Paul’s support of the heritage community was immeasurable,” Heritage Toronto’s Rebecca Carson wrote in a tribute.

Known also for supporting charities, “Paul will be sorely missed,” she said. “He understood the value of preserving our heritage and a beautiful, liveable city, and was a much-needed voice in the heritage community.

“He is really irreplaceable,” Carson said.

Oberman, 53, died Monday on a personal trip from Halifax to Quebec City when a four-seater plane tore into deep snow on a bog among tall trees during an ice storm in remote northern Maine.

He was a known aviation buff, licensed pilot and father of six who lived in Rosedale with wife Eve Lewis.

The pilot radioed a distress call in mid-afternoon, said Stephen McCausland, a spokesman for the Maine Public Safety Department.

A Canadian Forces chopper crew tracked its emergency transponder beacon after dark and lowered two attendants to the lone survivor, in a wooded area 18 km from the Daaquam border crossing near Depot Lake. Maine rescuers on snowmobiles and snowshoes reached the site mid-morning Tuesday.

Pilot Ryan Isaac, 31, also from Toronto, suffered a broken arm and was airlifted to a Quebec City hospital Monday, McCausland said.

As a developer, Oberman combined historic building preservation with economic “viability,” Architectural Conservancy Ontario president Lloyd Alter said, adding he “spared no expense to do it right.

“His projects are the background for almost every heritage image of Toronto,” he wrote on his website.

On Facebook, architect David Oleson said Oberman “knew how to ‘do the right thing’, and still make a profit.”

Recently calling historic buildings combining old and new the “lifeblood of a city,” Oberman’s best-known Toronto project was restoring the 1916 Summerhill-North Toronto CPR station on Yonge St., which houses an LCBO store.

His Woodcliffe Corp. also restored the downtown Gooderham Flatiron Building, the Shops at Scrivener Square, plus structures in other cities.

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