Parc Downsview Park Inc. (PDP) has evicted one of its parkland tenants, the Canadian Air & Space Museum, and wants to build a four-pad arena in its place.
PDP board chair David Soknacki, who is a former Toronto councillor, said the museum, which is run by volunteers, had fallen behind in rent by about $140,000, but acknowledged it was starting to turn things around and had paid about $22,000.
An arena would bring 700,000 people to the park every year, and increase revenue.
“We need to move forward in order to bring people to the park,” Soknacki said. “So what we have to do is bring the investment in, we have to bring the programming in, and we believe this four-pad arena is part of that.”
The museum’s volunteer chair Ian McCougall said he was suspicious when the landlord returned the money a few days ago.
“They wanted us out,” he said. “So it’s not that we can’t afford to deal with the arrears. There are arrears. We can afford to deal with it, and on an operating basis we are in fact financially sound.”
“It’s tough. It really is tough to be in this position and have to deal with a landlord that has really no respect at all for what we represent and what we’ve been doing,” said Rob Cohen, the museum’s general manager.
The museum, which is located in a historic de Havilland of Canada aircraft manufacturing building at Downsview Park, didn’t pay any rent when it first opened there 14 years ago, but its rent has been hiked to $15,500 a month in the last few years.
Museum members say they’re not leaving without a fight and plan to push legally and politically.
Coun. Maria Augimeri, whose ward includes Downsview Park, said she was “deeply disappointed” by the “callous eviction” of the museum and urged the federal government to intervene.
“The Federal Government should be stepping up and asking how they can help preserve the rich Canadian history that exists in this museum, not asking how they can get a better deal on the land,” Augimeri said in a release.
The museum features artifacts including full-size aircraft and exhibits illustrating a century of aviation heritage and achievements, according to its website.
One of its projects was the construction of a full-size replica of the Avro CF-105 Arrow supersonic interceptor, which first flew in 1958. It was being moved to a nearby hanger belonging to Bombardier over concerns the museum won’t be able to access it once the doors lock for good Tuesday evening. A locksmith was called in to change or plug all the locks at the museum on Tuesday morning.
PDP, which lists 37 tenants on its website, is a “self-financing” Crown corporation and is located at a former Canadian Forces Base north of Toronto. It is also home to a 30,000-square-foot sports complex with an indoor track.
With files from Pam Seatle