Condo developer Luigi (Louie) Santaguida, who is standing on a barren piece of land that he’s owned for about a decade in Toronto’s west end, points to a small park across the street and shakes his head.
“The city did a great job of putting a park in front of industrial use,” he says sarcastically.
Santaguida’s frustration shows. After buying this two-acre site in the
Upper Junction, on which paint factories of one form or another had sat
for nearly a century, his company, Stanton Renaissance, spent more than
$5-million on underground remediation and other activities to clean it
up. About five years ago, he asked the city to rezone the land to allow
some of it to be for residential use. He’s still working on that.
The site, which sits directly below St. Clair Avenue West, to the
east of Mulock Avenue, is emblematic of a protracted transition that’s
taking place in what was once a manufacturing heartland, and the tension
that has developed as the city seeks to preserve employment lands in an
area that has seen a slow and steady decline in industrial jobs. The
railway tracks that sit directly to the east of the property once fed a
vibrant hub of factories. These days the trucks that try to get into the
remaining factories find themselves in snarled traffic, while better
public transit will increasingly be shuttling the growing number of
Mr. Santaguida argues that manufacturers are no
longer interested in moving into the neighbourhood, and says he’s called
the city’s bluff by trying to sell the land to industry.
challenged the city to bring us employment, we’ve offered the property
to local industry,” he says. “You can’t find employment uses, otherwise
it would have been there already. It really must be converted or it will
sit here like it sat here for the last 20 years,” he says, noting that
the Benjamin Moore paint factory that had sat on it had shut down in the
late 1990s, long before he bought the land. “Industry is not coming
into this quadrant, it’s over.”
City councillor Peter Milczyn, who
chairs the planning and growth management committee, does not want to
see the neighbourhood veer too much toward residential.
still some large sites left in the Junction that condo developers would
snap up in an instant if they felt that they could just walk in and get
permission for a condo, but that in fact is not what the city wants to
see,” he says. “I personally don’t want to see that happen. I like the
idea that along the avenues, where we have public transit along the
edges, that where appropriate you can have a bit of a mix of residential
and commercial, but behind that the appropriate types of businesses and
smaller industries can very well coexist side-by-side and actually mean
that somebody can walk to work, they can live and work in their
Mr. Milczyn does agree that it’s becoming more
challenging for big industry to function in the neighbourhood, but he
points to smaller employers like cheese makers, carpenters and
furniture-makers that he’d like to see remain.
He says that Mr.
Santaguida’s site, “6 Lloyd, is one of these little mixed pockets where
you have single family homes across the street from what we would today
consider pretty nasty industries, but they co-existed for decades and
The property has some advantages when it comes to
seeking the ability to build condos, Mr. Milczyn suggests, including its
proximity to St. Clair and the fact that “there are single family homes
across the street, so it’s already on a street that you might want to
quote unquote try to clean up a little bit.” In addition, Mr.
Santaguida’s proposal includes using some of the site for employment
uses, with sculptor Abraham Ruben, who currently lives in Vancouver,
saying he will open a teaching school on the property and move his own
The proposal scored a win last week, when the
planning and growth management committee decided to delete the
recommendations of city staff and instead recommend that two-thirds of
the property be allowed to convert to mixed-use areas with residential,
while some of the property will be carved out for employment lands on
which such things as an arts school, creative arts studio, gallery,
theatre, farmers’ market or museum would be permitted. City council will
look at the recommendation in December.
“I really believe that
this is an area that needs to be revitalized,” says local councillor
Frances Nunziata. “This little pocket where [it] is, it’s been sort of
neglected. It’s really an eyesore, it’s a forgotten part of the city.”
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