LONDON, ONT. -- Wearing shirts emblazoned with ‘No Skyscrapers at the Forks’, opponents of a proposal to build a high rise building immediately behind one of London’s most historic streetscapes held a rally on Monday evening.

A rezoning application by Farhi Developments seeks to build a 40-storey high rise at 435-451 Ridout Street that would include 280 residential units, commercial, and office space.

Despite the property’s proximity to the flood plain, the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) has also approved the building design, albeit with a number of conditions.

Opposition to the proposal, however, appears to be gaining momentum.

“To put a 40-storey tower where at present only four stories is allowed, that’s ten times taller,” explained Kelley McKeating, President of ACO London.

McKeating added that almost 900 signatures have been gathered on an online petition opposing the rezoning request.

Two weeks ago, city hall’s Planning and Environment Committee recommended (4-1) approval of the rezoning, based on a recommendation by city planners.

A report to the committee concluded that the proposal satisfies the policies included in The London Plan, the city’s official plan.

No Skyscrapers at the Forks rally

No Skyscrapers at the Forks rally in London, Ont. on June 14, 2021. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV London)

Londoners at the rally, however, argued the tower would be immediately behind ‘Banker’s Row’, a series of yellow-brick buildings dating back to 1838 that originally housed five bank headquarters.

It’s one of only four National Historic Sites in London.

The building would also be next door to Eldon House (1834), the city’s oldest residence, and overlook Harris Park and the Forks of the Thames.

“It’s not just so-called ‘heritage advocates’ who really care about this most historic street in London,” explains McKeating. “We don’t want to see a 40-storey skyscraper towering over it.”

Those participating in the rally pointed to the large parking lot directly across Ridout, which is owned by Farhi Holdings, as a much more appropriate location.

No Skyscrapers at the Forks rally

McKeating adds that policies intended to protect heritage buildings should be council’s priority, including parts of The London Plan.

“We are just asking them to follow their own rules and deny the rezoning application.”