Demolition of West Don Lands heritage buildings began last week, despite community outcry
Friends of the Foundry, a Toronto community group, launched a petition on Friday demanding the Ontario government stop the order to demolish the Dominion Foundry Complex’s buildings.
The petition, called “Save the Foundry – Respect Local Planning,” has received almost 15,000 signatures as of today.
“Premier Ford’s government is not considering any community feedback in his plan to bulldoze heritage properties in the West Don Lands area of Toronto,” said the petition. “We fear this will repeat itself throughout Ontario.”
Toronto Centre City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and Toronto Centre MPP Suze Morrison were not provided with a courtesy notification about this demolition from the provincial government, the petition said. Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark issued a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) to demolish the foundry’s buildings.
An MZO allows Clark to make a ruling without any chance of appeal regarding the use of a piece of land in the province.
The foundry has been in a state of disrepair and abandoned for more than 40 years, said Stephanie Bellotto, a spokesperson for Clark. The Ontario government has determined the site would be best used to provide affordable housing and a new community space with heritage elements.
“A heritage impact assessment was conducted on the site, which determined that it is not of provincial significance,” said Bellotto. “The assessment considered possible alternatives to demolition and concluded that these were not feasible due in part to the contamination of the property, requiring full remediation.”
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is consulting with city officials and the chief planner on the proposed development at 153-185 Eastern Ave., including how heritage attributes will be incorporated.
A demolition crew began to tear down the heritage buildings on Thursday.
The four buildings were completed in 1929. These buildings were used by the Dominion Wheel and Foundries Company to make railroads, and it was designated a heritage site by the Toronto government in 2004.
Wong-Tam said in a statement that she condemns the demolition of the foundry buildings.
“The demolition of these heritage assets would be an incalculable detriment to proper city planning,” said Wong-Tam. “It signals to municipalities and developers across the province that the Ford government is unwilling to follow its own recently updated heritage planning policies. If the province refuses to respect its own heritage policies, why should anyone else?”
The information the city has been provided is limited, but it appears the province is trying to create “a clean slate” for a future developer to redevelop the site, without being burdened by city approvals related to heritage buildings, Wong-Tam said.
Morrison started another petition to save the foundry buildings. This petition has garnered 900 signatures to date.
In a press release, Morrison said the Ontario government needs to be transparent about what is going on with the site.
“It is appalling that Doug Ford is rushing forward with the demolition of the Dominion Foundry heritage buildings despite vocal opposition from the community,” she said. “Ford needs to respond to the community’s calls for greater transparency.”
Friends of the Foundry also launched a lawsuit fund against the demolition in congruence with their petition. The fund has raised $2,420 out of its $30,000 goal as of today.
Ford loves quick, decisive action, said Ron Stagg, a history professor at Ryerson. Toronto needs more subsidized housing, and Ford is going to provide it.
“However, there is no indication just how much of the housing will be low-income,” said Stagg.
“Toronto has other plans partially made for the site and is trying to arrange a pause in the demolition process, but the government feels it knows better and is not going to wait unless there is a massive outcry.”
Stagg said there should be constructive dialogue with Torontonians about the demolition instead of abrupt action without any consultation with the city.
Jonathan Bradley is the breaking news reporter at the Ryersonian for the winter 2021 semester. Bradley is a fourth-year journalism student at Ryerson University. Bradley works as a writer at the Ryerson School of Journalism. He has done freelance stories for the Post Millennial, the National Post, and the Financial Post. His favourite hobbies are exercising, playing his acoustic guitar, and reading.