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DIG IN initiates inclusive community and cultural plans and actions that will contribute to sustaining a neighbourhood that is GREEN • CLEAN • SAFE • CIVIL by fostering improvements in the areas of its social, environment, cultural, economic and physical make up. Please join our Mailing List / Yahoo Group.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Notes from the Castlepoint (Film Studio) Public Meeting

Thanks to Ken Wood here are some notes from the recent meeting about the film studio development coming to our neighbourhood.

I was at the Feb. 12, 2008 community meeting at West TorontoCollegiate (330 Lansdowne Avenue), along with about 60 other people. (a great turnout given the snowy weather!).

Castle Point Realty presented their plans for the first time. 158 Sterling is in the center of a highly industrial area, about two blocks south of Bloor Street West, near the railway tracks.

We got to see detailed plans and had a lot of questions answered. Local Councillor Adam Giambrone, representatives from city planning (Carola Perez?) and even a provincial environment officer were there to gather and give information. Apparently, the provincial Ministry of the Environment has already given its blessing to the plans.

The original owner of the site was Alcan. Tower Automotive held the site from 1995 to Sept, 2006 (and went into bankruptcy). It had been vacant afterwards.

The property has already been purchased by Castle Point in May 2007. "Soil remediation" = removal of toxins from this commercial/industrial zoned site has been underway for some time now and will take another 2-3 months to complete. It is expected that within days they will be granted a demolition permit to prepare some
parts of the site, but it is clear that the intent is to preserve most of the buildings' facades and maintain the historical character of the site. The space to be available will be 270,000 square feet.

The deal for the film studio is still in negotiation, although plans were leaked last April 2007. It is currently anticipated that famous Pinewood Studios, a major player in the film industry, will be involved in the site.

Castle Point said that within 5 years we should see 1,00-1,500 people employed with several ancilliary businesses locating near or on the site. Examples: music studios, sound stages, graphic/computer arts, possibly high end historic car restoration, maybe even a toy manufacturer, etc.

The initial major concerns raised were related to parking, the need to revitalize and establish a Bloor Street presence in what is referred to as a "dead zone" west of Lansdowne and east of Dundas and issues related to crime, security and social problems in the area. More detailed meetings and consultations were promised to occur soon after an official application to the city for the site, including a traffic study, are done. It is expected that city council will be considering a special by-law this spring to facilitate the site development.

Parking may be the primary concern as only 17-35% of the business parking needs can be met in the current plan. It is hoped that people employed at the site will use public transit (TTC + relatively close GO train) given the service to the area. As well,
additional work will be done to provide road access to the site from all sides.

I brought up a request that the developers be open to contributing to the community by assisting in resolving long standing social problems by perhaps providing public space for the community and non-profits to house needed services. Castle Point said they are open to discussions, but that we should realize their concerns are profits and that bringing jobs to the area would lead to general prosperity.

Councillor Giambrone commented that plans would likely include greenbelt/environmental considerations as well as perhaps a cycling path.

All in all, it seems the community generally welcomes the initiative and is hungry for more information and to be kept in the loop to have input as the site plans progress. This looks like it could be a win-win for all concerned.

Former DIG IN chair Ann Homan was also in attendence, and also took notes:
Lots of people (50 +/-) braved the snow storm to attend Tuesday's public meeting about the development of the former Alcan/Tower Electric property on Sterling Avenue. If you are unfamiliar with the property -- it is on Sterling, south of Bloor, with the beautiful old 10-storey building.

Castlepoint partners, Alfredo Romano and John O'Keefe were in attendance, as well as Councillor Giambrone, his staff, the area's City Planner and a representative from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

Some key points from the meeting:

Film Studio?
-- the 7.5 acre property was purchased in Spring 2007 by Castlepoint Realty Partners (does anyone have the Toronto Star article leaking the project?? Could you please upload it?)
-- Castlepoint says it is in negotiations with Pinewood Studios (, hoping to retain them as the main tenant
-- should that not be a go, Castlepoint says they will continue with redevelopment, and will seek businesses in the creative industry as tenants -- graphic arts, architecture, IT, recording studios, etc.
-- it is important to the developer to get working on the site to illustrate to potential tenants that the property will be ready within the proposed schedule

Site Design & Use
-- the 10-storey building is has an Historical designation, and must be retained
-- an interesting historical note -- this was the highest building in Canada when it was built in 1919!
-- it is Castlepoint's plan to keep the street facades of most of the other older buildings, creating an attractive, historic yet revitalized streetscape

Permitting & Approvals

-- the land is zoned for the proposed use (commerical/industrial), so there is currently no re-zoning application at the City
-- portions of the land were contaminated during the Alcan years, and have been undergoing long-term (10-15 years) remediation
-- the demolition of some of the non-historical buildings (mostly along the western rail line) will allow for full access to the soil and remediation will be completed
-- Castlepoint currently has an demolition plan with the City for approval

-- in the short-term, the demolition plan approval is expected to take 2-3 months, then the soil remediation will take another 2-3 months
-- in the long-term, the property will be ready for occupancy within 5 years.

Neighbourhood Benefits
-- the City has committed to carrying out a Neighbourhood Improvement Plan
-- this is something that usually only pertains to the City's 5 designated Employment Areas, but has decided to apply it to the Sterling property, even though it is only a District (clear as mud, yes)
-- in any case, it means that the developer will get property tax breaks, which can be passed along to tenants, which should, in turn, attract good tenants

-- the main negative issue raised by attendees was traffic and parking
-- like any development, this one will be required to meet the required parking ratios
-- the City Planner in attendance said there may be a Traffic Study