Friends of the Foundry fight to preserve heritage buildings against Ontario’s redevelopment plans

1 March 2023 / by Daniel Centeno

When demolition began at the Foundry buildings in Toronto’s Donlands in January 2021, residents of the community came together to halt the destruction and gather support across the city. Through efforts including petitions and legal action, the buildings remain today, but one community group said the fight is not over.

Franca Leeson of Friends of the Foundry said the future of the buildings remain in limbo. The area along Eastern Avenue was purchased by the Ontario government and was then sold to Eastern Avenue (Condo) GP Inc. for about $101.2 million.

The area is listed on the Toronto heritage registrar, but the province argued that it is not a heritage designation, which would have limited any redevelopment to the buildings and surrounding streets.

In addition to gathering thousands of signatures and asking residents to write to the province, Leeson is hopeful that communication with the province can improve.

Glass buildings with several windows and surround trees along a busy intersection.

Concept designs of a community hub that incorporates elements of the Foundry buildings. Photo courtesy of Eliot Wright/Friends of the Foundry.

Rather than destroy the area completely and make way for condominiums, Leeson, other community groups, architects and city planners created designs that would incorporate the buildings in a future community hub, similar to the city’s Distillery District.

Construction has destroyed some of the buildings, but Leeson said crucial areas including the machine shop have the potential to be incorporated in future designs.

This communication however, has stopped according to Leeson.

While support for preserving the foundry has been shown from other community groups like the St. Lawrence Community association, who hired lawyers to bring the province to court, and Toronto Centre MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam, Leeson is skeptical of Ontario’s intentions.

She believes the province is waiting for the concerned Donlands residents to either move somewhere else or pass away – it’s a trend she said she sees in Toronto.

For now, she said Friends of the Foundry will continue to “make noise and sound the alarm” while finding partners to help push legal change and get a site permitting process going.

Listen to CJRU’s full interview with Franca Leeson: