Tag Archives: Wabash Avenue
Eric Veillette – Openfile.ca
The clock is ticking on the revitalization of a former Parkdale industrial site.
Vestiges of Toronto’s industrial heritage abound throughout the city. The Don Valley Brickworks, the John Street Roundhouse, the Distillery district and several other sites have been successfully revitalized, some for further industrial and commercial use, others residential and community-based.
Some haven’t been so lucky. Looking south when crossing the rail overpass on Dundas Street West, near Sorauren Avenue is a striking, graffiti-laden building flanking Wabash Avenue, abandoned more than four decades ago when the Canada Linseed Oil Company shut its doors.
Neglect isn’t entirely the issue here. For over a decade, the non-profit Wabash Building Society has campaigned the City of Toronto to revive the structure as a community centre that will foster arts, culture, health and fitness within the North Parkdale neighbourhood.
Although incorporated into the city’s Approved Capital Plan for development in 2017-2020 with an allotment of $12.6 million, a 2009 feasibility report showed noticeable structural deterioration of the former factory, leading Wabash Building Society chairman Doug Bennett to call the building’s snail’s-pace refurbishment a “race against time.”
Based on the previous report, filed in 2003, Bennett says, “The plan was to use the whole structure as is and simply rearrange the inside. By 2009 it was deemed that certain parts of the building could not be used and would have to be rebuilt entirely.”
A Parkdale resident for more than twenty years, Bennett says he paid the building little attention until he became a father, which opened his eyes to its potential as a community centre. “I thought it was ridiculous to see this hulking mass of unused land in the middle of a vibrant, re-energizing neighbourhood,” he says.
Since 2006, much of the site surrounding the building has been redeveloped, featuring an off-leash dog park, baseball diamond, skating rink and a field house. Gord Perks, councillor for Ward 14, says the proposition for the city-owned building would complete the efforts to enliven what was once a derelict area. “If you went there ten to fifteen years ago, it was a dead, abandoned and hostile space.”
In the decades before it closed, the Linseed Oil Factory employed hundreds of Toronto residents. Bennett calls the building, which is not included on the city’s list of designated heritage properties, an “important piece of our nation-building infrastructure. Toronto was built along those railway lines.”
Montreal-based Canada Linseed Oil Mills built the property in the spring of 1910 near the Canadian Pacific Railway lines. A thriving business in the pre-plastic era, linseed oil was used in the production of oil paints, linoleum, canvas bags, table-cloths and even livestock feed.
The building joined an already vibrant industrial community, which included ball bearing, leather goods and candy manufacturers, as well as the Dominion Bridge Company, which, as David Wencer of Heritage Toronto points out, would later manufacture parts for the city-linking Prince Edward Viaduct, completed in 1918.
Since its closing, the building has also become a haven for urban explorers, its interior and elevator shaft rife for photography.
The water erosion and roof problems cited in the 2009 feasibility report are being looked at, Perks says. His worries lie mainly with whether the city’s subsequent budgets will accommodate the heritage community: “The future of the city’s heritage services will be at the centre of the political struggle over the next several years.
“We have an administration right now that cannot begin to understand the range of services necessary to make a city a great place to live in and to make the lives in that city great,” Perks adds. “There’s no business model that does that.”
But Perks has faith in Toronto citizen and its various heritage voices, calling the Wabash Community Centre a signature project tying together environmental, heritage and community values. “It’s the public spaces that make a neighbourhood, that create community by bringing people of different ages and backgrounds together in a single space.”
Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information – 416-388-1960
Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
They did not write these articles, they just reproduce them here for people
who are interested in Toronto real estate. They do not work for any builders.
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