On January 14, 2021, the Province of Ontario began the illegal demolition of the Dominion Foundry Buildings at 153-185 Eastern Avenue in the West Don Lands. These four 100+ year old buildings represent the largest heritage asset in the area as well as the history of the Canadian national railway industry.
In realizing that the Province began this demolition without consultation or adhering to their own heritage policies, the St Lawrence Neighbourhood Association quickly filed an injunction, which the City of Toronto supported, and a stay of demolition was granted by Justice Corbett until a ruling by Divisional Court, set for February 26, 2021.
The Province subsequently reached out requesting the City discontinue court applications citing that it is now undertaking public engagement. Discontinuing the court applications was not acceptable to the City of Toronto on the terms suggested by the Province. All parties did jointly agree to seek an adjournment, or a temporary pause, of the February 26, 2021 hearing which allows the City and community to maintain their leverage. Justice Corbett granted the adjournment requested.
City Legal Services, in consultation with City Planning, will draft potential minutes of settlement to address outstanding issues, including aiming to secure full compliance with the Ontario Heritage Act and an existing subdivision agreement with the City for the Foundry site. If this happens, the court hearing will no longer be necessary. If the Province is not agreeable to what the City believes are appropriate terms, including the nature of public consultation, there will be no settlement and the City will instead seek a new hearing date. If it comes to that, it is the City’s full intention to win the court case.
I believe this is the right course of action as the City responsibly corrects a horrible situation that was not its making. We have seen that the community has visions for this site which marry heritage, affordable housing, and community space. It is only through robust community consultation that we can respect the local planning process and build complete communities. It’s time that the Province comes clean and starts working constructively with the City of Toronto and the community.