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Future of Mr. Christie's land uncertain as demolition begins

Last Updated Sep 27, 2017 at 6:11 pm EST

It’s been idle for several years, but this week crews returned to the former Mr. Christie’s plant in Etobicoke — although not to bake cookies.

The city of Toronto issued a demolition permit for all existing structures on the 27-acre property on Lake Shore Boulevard West, except the iconic water tower.

“Our intention is to keep it and incorporate it into future plans,“ First Capital Realty vice-president Jodi Shpigel told CityNews.

The tower is also under consideration to be included on the city’s heritage registry.

First Capital bought the land in 2016 and, while it hasn’t filed official development plans with the city, Shpigel said the company would like to see the area zoned for mixed use.

“We’d like to see a full community — residential, employment, retail, banks, restaurants and open spaces,” she said. “And of course we want to address current traffic and congestion issues.”

The land is currently zoned for employment. Mondelez Canada, which sold the land to First Capital, tried to have the land rezoned, but city council rejected the request. Mondelez then filed an appeal with the Ontario Municipal Board.

“We inherited that appeal,but we haven’t acted on it,” Shpigel said.

The area is home to about two dozen high-rise condominiums, with several more in the development or construction stages. Coun. Mark Grimes said the neighbourhood needs the Mr. Christie’s land to remain designated for employment.

“No more residential,” he said. “We can’t handle it. Before anything happens on that land we need transit first.”

There’s momentum in the community for the former plant to be converted into a transit hub with access to rail and other transportation. First Capital appears to be on board.

“We very much agree with the city and the community that our site would be very suitable for a transit hub, with a GO station and other options,” Shpigel said.

But Metrolinx spokeswoman Vanessa Barrasa said the Park Lawn and Lake Shore neighbourhood has been evaluated and didn’t make the cut for a stop on the Lakeshore West line.

“A GO station at Park Lawn [Road] was evaluated, but it did not make the short list of 12 stations that we are moving forward with further design and study,” Barrasa said in a statement.

“However, we are continuing to work with municipalities to improve the strategic, economic, financial and operations cases for other locations, such as Park Lawn, and bring them forward for further consideration.”

Grimes said the transit needs are urgent in the burgeoning community. A staff report to council is expected in early fall which will outline the feasibility of a right-of-way streetcar track to take residents from their homes to the downtown core.

“The plan would be to have a dedicated right-of-way,” he said. “We’d curb those tracks eventually and we’d have a dedicated run from Park Lawn and Lake Shore all the way downtown.”

Grimes said the Mr. Christie’s land is important not only to the local community, but also to the city as a whole, and it will take a long time to develop it.

“We’re years away from anything happening there,” he said.