Paul Oberman, the former president of Woodcliffe Landmark Properties who died in a plane crash earlier this year, was one of Toronto’s leading lights when it came to the redevelopment and restoration of heritage properties. Not everyone will be familiar with his name, but through his work on places like the Gooderham Flatiron Building, King James Place, and the still-stunning Summerhill LCBO, many have enjoyed the fruits of his labour. His is an important legacy in a city that has often struggled to find novel ways to preserve its heritage structures.
As a way to honour Oberman’s contributions to the city and the work that he was engaged in prior to his death, a movement has formed to rename Market Street between Front and the Esplanade as Oberman Way and to make the area a pedestrian only zone and flower market, which the late developer hoped he could one day make happen.
Both suggestions will surely inspire some controversy. The creation of a pedestrian-only won’t please those who think the street provides useful parking in a neighbourhood where spots can be hard to come by during peak hours. And that’s not even to mention that the city’s political climate isn’t exactly pedestrian zone-friendly right now.
Others will note that Market Street has been around long enough that it doesn’t make sense to honour a heritage-supporter’s memory by renaming it. But, as the Globe’s Dave LeBlanc noted recently, “those with a fondness for the Market Street name will take comfort in the knowledge that it will still exist south of The Esplanade.” That’s a good point, but I wonder if it’ll be enough to satisfy those who prefer that existing street names remain in place.
This plan could be an excellent way to bring the past and present together with a user-friendly vision for one of Toronto’s oldest and most important areas. But it’ll involve making some tough decisions. What do you think?
Those interested in signing a petition in favour of the creation of Oberman Way can do so here. Lead image depicts a rendering of what the pedestrian space might look like.