Heritage supporters show love for Dominion Foundry buildings downtown on Valentine's Day

A Toronto group that calls itself Friends of the Foundry staged a "love-in" on Valentine's Day for four industrial heritage buildings it is trying to save from demolition downtown.

Wearing red, community members listen to speakers demand a say in future of heritage site

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who represents Ward 13, Toronto Centre, speaks to a 'love-in' for the Dominion Wheel and Foundries Ltd. Manufacturing Complex, 153 to 185 Eastern Ave., in the West Don Lands on Valentine's Day. (CBC)

A Toronto group that calls itself Friends of the Foundry staged a "love-in" on Valentine's Day for four industrial heritage buildings it is trying to save from demolition downtown.

The buildings are at the centre of a fight with the provincial government.

Wearing red and holding signs, community members showed their love and support for the Dominion Wheel and Foundries Ltd. Manufacturing Complex, 153 to 185 Eastern Ave., in the West Don Lands on Sunday. Members of the crowd were physically distanced from each other.

Those at the demonstration included Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, MPPs Suze Morrison and Chris Glover, and Annamie Paul, Green Party of Canada leader.

"We want to be involved. We demand to have a seat at the table," Wong-Tam said to cheers from the crowd.

Wong-Tam, who represents Ward 13, Toronto Centre, said the province proceeded with demolition without considering what the community wants.

"It is a false dichotomy to suggest that heritage buildings are standing in the way of progress and development," she said.

"We can do both — preserve these beautiful, stately heritage buildings and repurpose them for the 21st century, with modern amenities, with community spaces, with deeply affordable housing, and perhaps, mixed use condominiums. All of that is possible."

Morrison agreed, saying the government should have consulted the public about the future of the buildings. She said sending in a crew to tear the buildings down was an attack on Toronto.

"It is a lie that we cannot have heritage and affordable housing at the same time and we all know it," Morrison said.

The Friends of the Foundry is a group that advocates for local planning, while the site is provincially owned property that contains a warehouse, foundry building, office building and machine shop.

The four buildings on the site were constructed between 1917 and 1929 and were added to the city of Toronto's heritage register in 2004, according to Friends of the Foundry.

"Built in 1917 to produce railway equipment, the properties were added to Toronto's heritage register in 2004 to preserve architectural and historical significance to life in the city during the WWI and post-war eras. Today, that heritage is in peril," the Friends of the Foundry says on its website.

The site is subject to an Ontario ministerial zoning order issued in October. The order, one of three for the West Don Lands, paves the way for housing construction and allows the province to bypass planning processes, including public consultations.

Fight to save buildings has become legal battle

On Jan. 14, a demolition crew hired by the province came to the Dominion Foundry Complex. Demolition work ensued and one building has been damaged.

On Jan. 21, the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association filed a notice of injunction to halt demolition work on the site.

On Jan. 22, the Ontario government decided to pause the demolition as a "good faith measure." Community members and city councillors had demanded that the demolition plans be stopped in an effort to preserve the buildings.

And on Jan. 29, Justice David Corbett of Ontario Divisional Court ordered the provincial government to halt its demolition temporarily until a panel of three judges could hear the matter on Feb. 26.

Buildings represent 'rich industrial heritage' of Toronto

According to the group, the Dominion Wheel and Foundries buildings were part of a complex that manufactured equipment for railways in the first half of the 20th century.

"The remaining warehouse, foundry building, office building and machine shop are among the few surviving remnants of the rich industrial heritage of the West Don Lands — the first industrial area in Toronto's history," the group said.

"The West Don Lands, Corktown and St. Lawrence Neighbourhoods are where Toronto began and flourished and we have fought to ensure that important heritage resources like the Foundry are conserved and repurposed as a connection to that history."