Markham bows to public pressure on Main Street laneway name

Main Street Unionville Laneway

Originally published in yorkregion.com by Amanda Persico, October 10, 2012.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

That was the sentiment expressed by many Unionville residents at this week’s public meeting.

About 50 residents turned out to protest a proposal to change the name of a lane that runs east of Main Street from Carlton Road to Victoria Avenue.

The laneway — the original Main Street alignment — is part of Unionville’s history. The original Main Street is tucked in behind and is home to a real estate agency, a lawyer’s office and a former medical practice.

All three have a Main Street address.

The Main Street we know today — lined with stores, restaurants and tourist attractions — was moved to its current alignment after the original Main Street was susceptible to frequent flooding.

And being listed as a Main Street business is just like being at the centre of it all.

“Everyone knows where Main Street Unionville is,” Sara Kauder said. “And I think a lot of people are envious because Unionville is a very special place.”

Ron Minken, head of Minken Employment Lawyers on Main Street, where the laneway begins, spearheaded a petition asking council to keep the Main Street address and has collected more than 160 signatures.

Mr. Minken purchased 145 Main St. because of its prestigious address and renaming the laneway would be devastating for business.

“Law is one of the oldest human professions and this is one of the oldest houses on  Main Street,” he said. The building used to be the old jail house and there are columns in the basement that still have prisoner markings.

“I felt I bought into a piece of history. And that’s a privilege.”

Several other residents repeated the historical significance of the laneway.

“Unionville has changed over the last few years,”  said Terry Culbert who has lived at 143 Main St. for close to two decades. “But I am still impressed with the community’s strong urge and desire to maintain its heritage and history. It’s important not to change our heritage. Please leave it alone.”

Markham resident Kyle Burgis took it upon himself to research the historic village at the Markham Museum archives. “I wasn’t fighting people to look at the archives,” he said. “I’m afraid if you take it off the surface, no one will dig deep enough to see the history. It will be a sad progress if we move from town to city and forget all the little hamlets.”

While councillors agreed to keep the Main Street name for the laneway, they also want to see more signage at the backs of the buildings as a matter of public safety.

One solution is to have businesses place lit numbers and signs on the back of the buildings so residence and tourists know where they are in the laneway.

Another solution endorsed by council is more signage at Carlton Road and Victoria Avenue pointing to 141, 143 and 145 Main St. addresses.

The laneway name was first introduced several years ago when 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. Since the plan didn’t go anywhere, board members re-introduced the idea of naming the laneway Kathleen McKay Lane.

But after hearing the outcry from residents, the proposal was rescinded.

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, “Laneway renaming irks Unionville businesses” and “We are moving to 145 Main Street Unionville!”.

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