The International Resource Centre for Performing Artists (IRCPA) together with the Corktown Residents and Business Association (CRBA) are currently preparing a proposal regarding the abandoned, heritage Foundry buildings in the West Don Lands, Block 17 and 26. We propose to regenerate the buildings as a Centre to enable the large number of musicians in the city, province and visiting from across Canada, to be able to live, work, create and perform here. This will also provide a Hub for the diverse and growing Communities in historic Corktown, to meet and work inclusively together.
Threatened Demolition of The Dominion Foundry Complex Heritage Site
(153 to 185 Eastern Avenue/Blocks 17 and 26 in the West Don Lands)
MUSIC ORGANIZATION SEEKS MEETING WITH ONTARIO PREMIER
The Dominion Foundry complex in Toronto’s West Don Lands, a listed heritage site recognized by the Smithsonian Institution, is in imminent danger of demolition by the Province of Ontario. The International Resource Centre for Performing Artists (IRCPA) has been working together with the Corktown communities to regenerate the site into a thriving cultural, innovative and communities centre for the city, the province and the country. Details are at https://ircpa.net/the-foundry.
Last week, as The Foundry Steering Committee met, a demolition crew arrived at the site to raze the Foundry buildings. Because these are provincial lands, no demolition permit was required and no notice was given to the City, the community or heritage advocates – although the IRCPA and Corktown Residents and Business Association (CRBA) in October had emailed the Premier and Ministers Lisa MacLeod (Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries) and Steve Clark (Municipal Affairs and Housing) and subsequently spoken with the offices of the two ministers.
The IRCPA and CRBA are asking to meet urgently with Premier Doug Ford to discuss the impact for this project to go ahead. At the very least, they request the opportunity to complete the feasibility study already under way.
The IRCPA (ircpa.net) is part of the support system in Canada’s music industry. Since 1983, it has worked behind the scenes helping artists develop their full potential by keeping their skills sharpened, becoming savvy professionals and starting their own small businesses.
Ann Summers Dossena, IRCPA founder, longtime Corktown resident and a CRBA board member, noted, “Our joint project addresses immediate and future economic, cultural and social issues. The need for a centre for Canada’s musicians has grown more urgent every year and become dire during the time of COVID. The Foundry will create two much-needed performance venues, spaces for discussion, exhibitions and inter-disciplinary cross pollination with innovators, and affordable housing for musicians. A number of musical organizations have already expressed interest in moving their offices here.
“A hub for the diverse communities of historic Corktown, it will include daycare and the possibility for the 25,000 residents and businesses to come together as an inclusive neighbourhood.
“Very importantly, the complex would become completely self-sustaining, based on similar successful models in the U.S.
“We have learned there are no applications for development on the site. So we look forward to a fruitful conversation with the Premier.”
Proposal for dominion foundry site, West Don Lands by International Resource Centre for Performing Artists (IRCPA) + The Corktown residents and business association(CRBA)
Finding a positive solution to social and economic issues in historic Corktown
Heritage Listed Buildings (City of Toronto)
“The property at 153-185 Eastern Avenue is recommended for inclusion on the City of Toronto Inventory of Heritage Properties for its cultural resource value or interest”
“Collectively, (the buildings) are historically and architecturally significant as a good example of an industrial enclave in the area adjoining the lower Don River.”
In fulfilling its mandate, the International Resource Centre for Performing Artists (IRCPA), a registered Charitable Organization, recognized the great need of a centre or home base for musicians both residing in Toronto or visiting for work. In our City of Music there is no place for musicians to meet, collaborate or create together, as with the Ballet and Opera centres. During the PanAm Games in 2015 we noticed the Dominion Foundry heritage site and inquired at the Ministry of Infrastructure for the Province. We were advised that many people and organizations were interested in it.
Residents and business owners have passed by the majestic, mysterious buildings wondering what would become of them with no sign of interest from anyone. It occurred to the IRCPA that it is conducive to accommodating two small performance venues with upper floors studios and rehearsal rooms or offices. The idea was extremely popular with the non-profit Corktown Residents and Business Association (CRBA) and a letter of support was sent to the IRCPA IN 2018.
The growing communities of Corktown have doubled the population, becoming a wonderful, diverse, neighbourhood. However, it has no place to meet or work together inclusively. In 2019, the idea of making the ground floor open to the public and become the Hub for all the Communities of Corktown seemed ideal and sensible.
Professionals in the Community stepped up to explore the possibilities. An urban planner, Josh Reiniger prepared the Background Study of the Site; a project manager, Larry Webb, came out of retirement, and architect Jonathan Kearns, along with business and resident volunteers made a Steering Committee. Consultations were held with city councillor Kristyn Wong Tam, Toronto’s Music Office, experts in development including help from Artsbuild Ontario. All advised to create a feasibility study to make our case for using the Foundry site for a Centre for Music Making, similar to two colleagues in New York City, the National Opera Centre and the DiMenna Centre, who were self-sufficient in three and five years respectively, and who have been very generous in sharing their lessons learned. Although we are confident the Foundry would be successful, we were advised that without a feasibility study we wouldn’t be able to convince the Province.
What better use for bringing this majestic Foundry building back to life than serving thousands of artists, residents, businesses, visitors and tourists, plus adding two performance venues to compensate for those recently lost in Toronto?
MZO October 23, 2020
The Province issued an MZO on the site along with required uses to be made of the site, which surprisingly are aligned with our Foundry proposal. The MZO would normally be followed by an application for the property. However, at time of publication, we have no news of an application for the site.
On October 27, a letter was sent informing the Premier of our proposed use of the Foundry, and was copied to the Minister of Heritage, Tourism, Culture and Sport, Lisa MacLeod, Ministers Steve Clark, Laurie Scott, and Vic Fedeli. In it, we requested a meeting to examine our suggestions and all possibilities.
We were able to have a conversation with the staff of Minister MacLeod, who have contacted their counterparts in the office of Steve Clark. We are hoping to speak with them soon. There hasn’t yet been a response from the Premier’s office.
In the meantime, we feel there are several positive factors in our favour. First, that the uses they listed for the site are similar to ours. Second, the impact of a Cultural Centre will be far greater than that of another condo building in the area, Third, the efforts the Premier has already announced he is making in the investment for the recovery with projects in infrastructure, communities, culture, recreation, and opportunities to rehabilitate our heritage buildings, and promote tourism, and affordable housing, are all aligned in our proposal for extensive solutions to social and economic issues in Corktown, in Toronto as a Music City, and for Ontarians.
At the time of publication, we are waiting to know if any application has been made for the Foundry site.
If not, we can obtain funding and request time from the Province to complete the Feasibility study. We will also put out a Call to Action to all Corktowners who wish to be Founders or Volunteers.
If an application has in fact been made would we have an opportunity to speak to the developer/builder as we were invited to do with the executives of Gooderham & Worts and their builders in the planning and design of the original Distillery District years ago?
The Foundry is proposed to be an independently and sustainably operated space that gives artists and community members a place to live, work, and play.
In fulfilling its mission, the IRCPA has identified the urgent need for a facility in Toronto, for musicians currently underserved by lack of resources. There is no place for artists to meet together, exchange creative ideas, to work, study, practise, rehearse, or to be mentored. The resources and facilities proposed will enable artists to follow their career paths by creating space to come together, audition, record, perform, and foster lifelong learning. The rejuvenated ground floor will be a Hub for the fast growing, diverse Communities in the historic Corktown area. New development will create affordable housing for the music community in perpetuity.
Through a green retrofit of a heritage building, operations, and transit access, the Foundry will embrace environmental sustainability with low embodied and operational carbon.
As an independent organization, the Foundry will operate to positively impact the financial well-being of artists nationally, and to create long-term local economic investment.
Through the preservation of historic buildings, the Foundry will establish a new model for inclusive and secure spaces to perform, learn, educate, innovate, and share cultural activities.
The Foundry will create space for community groups at low-to-no cost so that everyone has equal access to excellent resources.
Upper Floors, reserved for musicians and arts organizations.
- Practice/rehearsal/teaching rooms
- Recording Studio
- Opportunity to experiment in multi-media programming
- Office space for arts organizations who have outgrown their facilities
(see Ontario Arts Council report of 2008)
- International auditions by artistic directors/producers coming to Toronto to
a) save artists heavy travel expenses with best possible audition conditions
b) enhancing the reputation of Toronto as a City of Music.
Main Floor: Corktown Communities Hub
- Management office and Board Room (giving easy access to the Communities)
- Exhibition space, retail (instrument or IT repair) bank machine and other conveniences
- Several areas for socializing, meetings, reading, people watching
- Entrance to two performance venues (replacing some recently lost in the city)
- Box Office for venues
The Foundry is envisioned as a resource for the neighbouring residents, after-school music students, visitors and tourists. It’s well documented that an active arts centre in any community benefits all those in the community, not just those who work there. Considering the efforts the province is making in the investment for the recovery with projects in Infrastructure, Communities, Culture, Recreation, and opportunities to rehabilitate our heritage buildings, the promotion in Tourism, and affordable housing, it seems our goals are truly aligned.
Why a centre dedicated to serving Canadian musicians nationally in Toronto?
Toronto is home to 90% more performing artists than any other Canadian city, according to Ontario Arts Council.
Artists congregate in Toronto as the’ New York’ of Canada.The establishment of a community hub as a permanent home for musicians and related organizations , and a place to promote community/public interaction and awareness, is important to all Canadians. Musicians deserve a place to work and experiment just as the opera and dance communities in Toronto.
For more information, please call 416.362.1422, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or mail:
43 Bright Street, Toronto, ON. Canada M5A 3H5
The National Opera America Center in New York City is a model for the IRCPA Centre in Toronto.
Dedicated to the opera community in North America, the Opera Centre is self-sustaining with rented facilities and modest fees.
Each month, as many as 5,000 people now visit the Opera Center for public programs, auditions, recitals, rehearsals, recording sessions and meetings.
If you are planning a trip to New York and wish to visit/tour the National Opera America Centre, in mid-Manhattan, we will arrange an appointment for you. They are wonderful colleagues.
Photographs of the National Opera Center in New York are shown by courtesy of Opera America, Marc Scorca, President.