Community group unveils Foundry plans after court date postponed

Julia Simioni, Senior Reporter

Photo: Larry Heng

The fate of the Dominion Foundries site is still up in the air after all parties involved agreed to adjourn a face-off in court.

The Ontario government, the City of Toronto and the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association (SLNA) were set to argue about the West Don Lands buildings in court on Feb. 26. If a resolution cannot be reached outside of court, the hearing will proceed at a later date.

Community members and local politicians have been fighting since October to stop the province from demolishing the four century-old Foundry buildings at 153-185 Eastern Ave.

A crew had already damaged one building before the SLNA applied for an injunction to halt demolition.

On Feb. 24, Friends of the Foundry, a community group that has been working with the SLNA, published a “demonstration concept” for the future of the site. Put together probono by prominent Toronto architects, the plan shows that the site could provide affordable housing while retaining some heritage buildings.

“The notion that you need to demolish all the buildings in order to clean it up … is I don’t think supportable,” architect Joe Lobke told The Globe and Mail. “We’ve got examples where we can do better than that.”

The Friends’ plan consists of high-rise towers alongside restored Foundry buildings. Community and retail spaces would be included.

The exploratory design concept “recognizes that the conservation, integration and adaptive re-use of these handsome and robust historic industrial structures contributes to our cultural memory and enhances the unique identity of the city and the neighbourhood,” says the Friends of the Foundry website.

Other local organizations have also come forward with ideas.

Ford government has yet to show any proposals for the site

A plan proposed by the International Resource Centre for Performing Artists (IRCPA), and supported by the Corktown Residents and Business Association (CRBA), would include a working and performance centre for musicians, a cultural centre, affordable housing, daycare and a community hub.

The goal is to make the project self-sustaining, similar to existing facilities in New York. Already, some musical organizations have expressed interest in moving their offices there,” the IRCPA’s website says.

The Ford government says it would include 25 per cent affordable housing on the site, but has shown no formal proposal or images of its plan.

On Feb. 22, CBC News revealed that the government agreed to sell the provincially-owned land last September after negotiating with one unnamed buyer whose identity the government refuses to disclose. When asked by a reporter why the government didn’t follow normal procedure of an open call to prospective buyers, Premier Doug Ford didn’t respond directly.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark says the province is now interested in consulting the community. “The site hasn’t been sold,” Clark told reporters. “Now, our focus is different. Our focus is ensuring that there is consultation on that site.”

The ministry has set up an online discussion regarding the Foundry, giving the public until March 4 at 5 p.m. to submit comments.