Edit: We changed the links to download the background information, to make it a little easier to access them.
We signed the lease on 30 Ordnance Street, an old scaffolding factory hemmed in to the north and south by the CPR and CNR railways, and to the West by Liberty Village, in August, 2009 . The place had been inhabited by raccoons, and was, not surprisingly, uninhabitable by people. We gutted it. We stripped the carpet, repainted the walls, redesigned the interior, redid the electrical, and replaced most of the windows. By the time we moved in on September 28, the poured concrete floors gleamed. Moving from a dark, two-room, one-bathroom basement office on Richmond Street West (a crosstown street in Toronto’s CBD), the as yet sparse factory floor held all the promise of our as yet unbuilt solar panels: drenched in sunlight and ready to be ground-mounted (in this case with heavy machinery) in a pinch.
The landlord had for a while been trying to rezone the property for condo development, and there were rumours that the whole area might become Liberty’s easternmost extension. Yet, it seemed that we’d have a good several years until anything major happened, if at all. Building condos also went against the City’s plan to foster ‘Economic Zones’, ‘Employment Areas’, and ‘Employment Districts’; “to provide a good overall balance between population and employment growth by creating job opportunities for Toronto residents” (from the City of Toronto Official Plan). We thought if we did something good with this land, there’d be a strong disincentive to redevelop it.
The City started to renovate the building next door, making it their new Licensing and Standards Office. Interested renters kept visiting to take a look at the empty factory adjoining ours. The Fashion Design Council of Canada was this-close to siting Toronto Fashion Week there. Eva’s Phoenix, the shelter for at-risk youth and youth-run printing-press across the road seemed to be doing good work as usual.
We got a call on April 15 from a very well-spoken, sympathetic City of Toronto planner who was as surprised as we were that the landlord hadn’t mentioned that an application to erect two high-rise condominiums at 30 Ordnance – and redevelop the rest of 10, 11, and 25 Ordnance (including Eva’s Phoenix) – was by then pretty far along. To be clear, in no way is this the landlord’s fault – it’s his land and he’s got a right to sell it. Really, it’s up to the City and to some extent the Province to determine the best and highest use for this site: do they want to opt to retain the employment that’s here, or rezone the land for condos.
We’d like to stay at Ordnance. We’ve submitted a letter to the City of Toronto’s Planning and Growth Management Committee, and will be speaking at their public consultation meeting on May 19, at 9:30 AM in Committee Room 1 to appeal the application.
If you’d like to read this letter, as well as the two City-sponsored reports – one from the City’s Chief Planner, the other from the City’s Economic Development department – which both argue that the land is better used for growing employment than for condos, and both which reject the application, we’ve made them available here:
Morgan Solar Support Letter – This document is a letter that you can copy and paste into an email, and includes the email addresses of the mayor, deputy mayor and the Planning and Growth Management Council.
You can also write a letter here to Mayor David Miller, and/or here to send a message to Toronto Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, who is the councillor representing our ward (Ward 19), and in fact was the person who brought the re-zoning application to City Council. We’d really appreciate any support you could give – we want to focus on building solar panels, not on another move.
P.S.: Thanks to Tyler Hamilton who champions our cause, and gives a bit more detail about the situation, in his Cleanbreak blog here.