Demolition begins at Dominion Foundry Complex heritage site

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Residents, officials and music organizations demand meeting with Premier to save Dominion Foundry Complex

By Robin MacLennan

GTA Construction Report editor

Provincially-mandated construction crews have started demolishing buildings at 153 and 185 Eastern Ave. in Toronto despite opposition from community groups.

Friends of the Foundry was created in response to sudden news that the heritage site would be torn down and police were at the scene as people gathered outside the fenced site.

The provincial government is being accused of ignoring requests from residents and officials to stop the destruction.

Toronto councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam is spearheading efforts to save the buildings.

“It is with fury and anger that I watched yesterday as the Government of Ontario began demolishing the Dominion Foundry buildings at 153 to 185 Eastern Avenue,” Wong-Tam said this week. “It is clear that when Doug Ford says his government is “for the people” he is not referring to residents who see the opportunity to adapt and incorporate the 100-plus year-old buildings on site for the future of the community, but his wealthy donors who see it as an obstacle to their bottom line.”

“It was only last Thursday that the community and I learned about Doug Ford’s plan to demolish four heritage buildings in the West Don Lands. What followed was a flurry of activity and advocacy to pressure the Ontario Government to save those buildings.”

Over the weekend, Toronto’s Chief Planner sent a letter to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing as well as the Ministry of Infrastructure Ontario confirming the need for a Strategic Conservation Plan and Heritage Impact Assessment with public engagement.

The Foundry site was subject to one of three Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs) last October, issued without warning and with zero consultation with either the City or residents.

The International Resource Centre for Performing Artists (IRCPA), which had been working with the Corktown community to turn the Foundry buildings into a music hub, sent a letter to Premier Doug Ford asking him to postpone the demolition

Last week, as The Foundry Steering Committee met, a demolition crew arrived at the site to raze the Foundry buildings.  Because these are provincial lands, no demolition permit was required and no notice was given to the City, the community or heritage advocates – although the IRCPA and Corktown Residents and Business Association (CRBA) in October had emailed the Premier and Ministers Lisa MacLeod (Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries) and Steve Clark (Municipal Affairs and Housing) and subsequently spoken with the offices of the two ministers.

The IRCPA and CRBA are asking to meet urgently with Premier Doug Ford to discuss the impact for this project to go ahead,” the organizations said in a press release.  “At the very least, they request the opportunity to complete the feasibility study already under way.”

“Our joint project addresses immediate and future economic, cultural and social issues,” said Ann Summers Dossena, IRCPA founder, long-time Corktown resident and a CRBA board.  “The need for a centre for Canada’s musicians has grown more urgent every year and become dire during the time of COVID.

“A hub for the diverse communities of historic Corktown, it will include daycare and the possibility for the 25,000 residents and businesses to come together as an inclusive neighbourhood.

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The goal is for the complex to become completely self-sustaining, based on similar successful models in the U.S.

“We have learned there are no applications for development on the site. So we look forward to a fruitful conversation with the Premier.” Summers Dossena said.

“After more than a year into a city-approved feasability study, and weekly steering committees since May, the IRCPA’s vision—and Corktown’s hopes for a community hub—has been directly bypassed by the Province’s Ministerial Zoning Order.”

Allowing the Province to sidestep Toronto’s usual planning processes, including community consultations, means that the Corktown residents have no say in what will replace the Foundry site.

As of Monday, no development plans have yet been submitted for Blocks 17 and 26 of the West Don Lands, so the Province’s rush to demolish the Foundry buildings—especially at a time when non-essential construction is supposed to be banned—has raised questions regarding the Province’s real intentions with the site.

“We have nothing of culture in our neighbourhood right now…We’ve doubled the population of Corktown. We have a wonderful diverse area but we don’t have a place to meet. I have no clue who anyone is anymore,” said Dosssena. “That’s not right.”

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