Cautious optimism about the Foundry development

By Franca Leeson –

Much has happened since dem­olition equipment began to tear down heritage buildings on the Dominion Wheel and Foundries site on Eastern Avenue in Janu­ary 2021. The community pro­tested, we took them to court, demolition was stopped and an agreement reached by August 2021.

Today the heritage buildings still standing on the site are pro­tected by a city by-law passed in July 2023, giving the site the heritage designation it should have had when the Ford gov­ernment attempted to demolish it for a quick sale into private hands.

The province used a Minis­ter’s Zoning Order (MZO) to bypass community consultation and municipal planning, giving a then-unnamed developer per­mission to drop three high-rise towers into the middle of a care­fully planned midrise neigh­bourhood.

The Ford government insisted this emergency order and demo­lition was necessary to meet an urgent need to build affordable housing – the same argument it made for attempting to remove land from the Greenbelt and ex­pand the boundaries of unwill­ing municipalities. They even put up a sign at the intersection of Rolling Mills and Palace Street that said so. Three years later, that sign is surrounded by parked cars, and is looking very tired. It stands in what is now a parking lot. Although the site was sold to Aspen Ridge Homes in March 2022, the de­veloper will not break ground until 2025. Strangely, this is good news. The Foundry’s Ca­nary District neighbourhood is already scrambling to provide infrastructure to existing resi­dents.

For example, the nearest school is more than a kilometre away. Plans to build one have been delayed as Metrolinx – a provincial agency – temporarily appropriated the designated site at Bayview Avenue and Mill Street to support construction of the Ontario Line subway.

The nearest large grocery store is Rocco’s No Frills at Front and Princess Streets, but that building will be demolished to make way for a very large residential/commercial develop­ment. In Canary District, a mid-sized grocery store has leased a ground floor space, but its offer­ings will skew to higher-priced gourmet products.

This puts a lot of pressure on a neighbourhood whose parking and roadways were designed to discourage car use. Canary Dis­trict currently has approximate­ly 4,300 residents, while the Do­minion Foundry development is expected to bring in 1,800 more. Other developments being built or planned in the area will bring the final population up to 11,000 or more, two-and-a-half times the number of current residents.

Developer Aspen Ridge has been building goodwill in the community by meeting with representatives, sharing plans and timelines, answering ques­tions and listening to concerns. Updated designs have addressed some community members’ concerns.

In addition to the three towers, plans include public space at the site’s southwest corner to be landscaped and maintained by the property owners. Within the site the streetscape is designed to encourage pedestrian access and discourage unnecessary ve­hicular traffic.

The Machine Shop (the build­ing on the east side of the site) is to be restored and updated, then handed over to the City of Toronto for use as a community space. What kind of program­ming will be there, and how it will be funded, remains to be seen.

The remaining heritage build­ings — the west Machine Shop on Palace Street and the Clean­ing Room at the intersection of Rolling Mills Road and Eastern Avenue — will be integrated into residential towers, which will have 1,038 units: 774 con­dominiums and 264 affordable rental apartments. The defini­tion of “affordable”, and who will manage the property, are still undetermined.

The community remains cau­tiously optimistic. Aspen Ridge clearly wants to play nice, as do we. We all want a development that enhances rather than harms the neighbourhood. Let’s hope we can do this together.
Friends of the Foundry (https://www.friendsofthefound­ is a local advocate group that helped prevent the demolition of the heritage build­ings, and is now helping with plans to redevelop the Domin­ion Wheel and Foundries site.