Laneway renaming irks Unionville businesses

145 Main Street Unionville Ron Minken

Originally published in yorkregion.com by Amanda Persico, October 5, 2012.

What’s in a name?

For Unionville merchants and residents, being listed as a Main Street business is just like being at the centre of it all.

But on a map, there are two Main Streets in Unionville – one is lined with stores, restaurants and tourist attractions. The other is a laneway tucked in behind and is home to a real estate agency, a lawyer’s office and a medical practice. All three buildings have a Main Street address.

“Main Street Unionville lends a certain cachet,” Ward 3 Councillor Don Hamilton said.

Next week, a staff report will be presented to Markham’s development services committee, calling for the laneway to be named.

That has some local businesses worried. Businesses located in behind the current Main Street at the top of the parking bay are petitioning council to leave the name well enough alone.

Ron Minken, head of Minken Employment Lawyers on Main Street, is heading the drive to keep his Main Street address on the laneway.

In fact, the laneway was the original Main Street. But after years of flooding, Main Street was moved to its current alignment, Mr. Minken said.

Mr. Minken is petitioning council to rescind the proposal or vote it down.

Renaming the laneway would be devastating for businesses who bought the business because of its Main Street address. “It’s like having a law firm on Elm Street versus Bay Street in Toronto,” Mr. Hamilton said. “You hear Bay Street and you think of a big, expensive law firm. It’s the same with Main Street.”

Several years ago, Varley Art Gallery board members offered up Kathleen McKay Lane, in honour of the woman who created studio space for the coveted Group of Seven artist, Frederick Varley. But that proposal never went through, art foundation board of director Patty Loveland-Gutzke said.

Upon her death, Mrs. McKay left her estate at Varley art collection to the city, which later become part of the Varley-McKay Art Foundation and includes the Varley Art Gallery and McKay Art Centre.

“The planing mill is at the other end of Main Street,” Ms Loveland-Gutzke said. “There is no one more fitting and with more a connection to Unionville than Kathleen.”

Ms Loveland-Gutzke can’t understand what the fuss is all about.

Her suggestion is to name the laneway that leads into the parking bay off Carlton Road Kathleen McKay Lane and leave the Main Street address for the three buildings at the top of the lane.

There are no homes that back onto the lane. Instead, the lane provides access to a heritage garden and the riverbank, she said.

“It is a little lane. We thought this was a gracious thing to do,” she said. “This doesn’t need to interfere with the three houses on the lane. This doesn’t need to be a problem.”

But having one lane with two names could be confusing for emergency vehicles.

“I respect (Ms McKay),” Mr. Minken said. “As the (lane) is used for parking, garbage collection and access with no other proprieties on, there would be a better street to name after her in her honour.”

Other laneway suggestions include Main Street Lane and Unionville Lane.

Some also want to see more of a heritage connection for the lane by naming it after William Eakin, a Markham councillor and later reeve and York County warden, or Robert Harrington, whose family operated the planing mill from the early 1880s to the 1960s.

The city is hosting a public information meeting about the name change proposal Oct. 9 at 7 p.m.
The petition calling for Markham to leave Main Street Unionville as it is, can be signed at minkenemploymentlawyers.com/petition
Join the conversation. Follow @AmandaPersico on Twitter.

See also, “Markham bows to public pressure on Main Street laneway name” and “We are moving to 145 Main Street Unionville!”.

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