forward a motion on Thursday calling on officials to “initiate negotiations on
an expedited basis” to acquire the Hearn site at “market value, taking into
consideration the environmental condition of the property and … recent
transaction values.” The move, seconded by Mayor John Tory, passed 20-2.
Critics of last year’s sale decried the $16-million purchase price for such a
prime piece of waterfront real estate when the deal was announced last
November. Ms. Fletcher and Mr. Tory expressed concern at the time the city was
not consulted on the move, which put a key site in the middle of the city’s
redevelopment plans for the waterfront in private hands.
Ms. Fletcher says the Hearn site could be turned into a park with the power
station adapted for some sort of public use.
“It’s a landmark building. It’s one of the most important buildings on the
Toronto waterfront. It’s a world-class building,” she said in an interview.
“It should be a public building, on our publicly planned new waterfront.”
Council also approved a motion from Ms. Fletcher asking city staff to begin
the process of designating the long-dormant power station, which started
generating power in 1951, as a heritage building. City officials are to report
back in April to Mr. Tory’s executive committee on their acquisition talks and
the terms of any proposed deal.
The owner of the site is a company called Studios of America, which has leased
the site and used it as a film location since March, 2002.
The company is partly owned by prominent developer Mario Cortellucci, a
long-time donor to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party who gave $1,200
last year to Doug Ford’s PC leadership campaign. Mr. Cortellucci, who has not
publicly announced his plans for the site, could not be reached for comment on
The company’s lease on the Hearn site was not set to expire until 2041. Its
terms, OPG says, gave the tenant the right to a first option to buy the
property, which it began pursuing several years ago, under the previous
Liberal provincial government. OPG has said the $16-million price was based on
a 2016 independent appraisal of the 31-acre site, and that the low amount was
partly due to soil contamination at the former coal-powered generator.
A sale to the city could be complicated by the conditions of the deal.
According to OPG, the deal includes a condition that blocks any transfer of
the property for three years. (It also prohibits any “residential or other
sensitive uses” on the site for 15 years.) That suggests the city could be
forced to consider expropriating the site, a process that would still see it
pay a fair market value.
Etobicoke councillors Stephen Holyday and Michael Ford – the Premier’s nephew
– were the only members to vote against acquiring the Hearn property. Before
the vote, Mr. Holyday warned councillors to be cautious about buying and
preserving the site, saying its massive smokestack affects flight paths in and
out of Toronto’s island airport.
When the Premier was a Toronto city councillor, and his late brother Rob Ford
was mayor, Doug Ford suggested the site as a future home of a National
Football League stadium or a recreation complex with an ice rink.