Every Spring I get a good share of phone calls from potential clients who are interested in having me provide them an estimate so they can apply for a subsidy with it from the City of Toronto’s Heritage Grants Program.
And every time it results in a rather lengthy conversation in which I explain why I’m no longer interested. Some thank me for my time and move forward in their quest to get a grant, while others decide to not bother applying so they can have me do their work in view of my stance.
I’ve had a successful run with the Program until 2009, at which point there was an extended garbage strike — if you’ll recall — that involved the same union for both parties; and when the dust settled, the personnel configuration was very different and the beautiful dynamic we had had, had been decimated. I gave it a try a couple times but subsequently decided to “run the other way”.
In any case, there in no need for me to publicly get into the specifics. Suffice to say that I have contacted several individuals involved at City Hall about my dissasisfaction, and no effort has been made by any of the parties to mend my position.
They aren’t many contractors who are as skilled in artistically restoring vintage masonry as I am; and so I feel it’s a shame that some civil servants would alienate those who can best serve the interests of the residents; but as someone so directly involved, I would think that, wouldn’t I?
My message to any potential clients whom I shall have directed to this post in the future is to do your research carefully about the type of result that you want. If you’ve ended up successfully vetting a contractor who also works through the Grants Program, then you’re in luck. If you can’t find what you like there, then I suggest passing on that process and you might be happier to have done so in the end. Ask neighbors who’ve gone through the program in recent years what their experience was like, and that will give you a sense of whether or not it’s for you.
Finally, I will leave you with a visual example that might give you some insight as to my position in this matter.
This first set of pictures relates to the left side of a Cabbagetown duplex that has been "restored" about three years ago through the Toronto Heritage Grants Program. Notice the dark red tint color that has been applied to all the bricks at the front of the house, as well as the condition of some of the bricks that you’d hope would have been remedied for a project to qualify as heritage work that was subsidized by the taxpayers’ purse. I've included three closeups which show the worse as well as the best of this particular job.
Earlier this year, I had no trouble convincing the neighbor on the right side of the same duplex, to forgo the Grants Program and hire me directly to restore the facade of his house.
Here are some before pictures:
And this is the final result that we’ve produced:
Here you can see both side by side:
Which one do you want?