The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MoCCA) announced through the Globe and Mail on Tuesday, June 16th that they would be moving to a new location at 134 Sterling Road, adjacent to the GO rail track and just a few blocks east of the up-and-coming Roncesvalles neighbourhood. The museum’s future home will be the historic Tower Automotive Building, which is scheduled for restoration as part of the ambitious Perth Sterling project to redevelop a 3.2-hectare swath of industrial land.
Built in 1919 by Northern Aluminum, the tower is an important piece of Toronto’s architectural and industrial heritage. The exterior was granted heritage designation in 2005, having been built in the early art-deco style, with such distinguishing features as an indented brown brick façade accentuated by buff coloured concrete pilasters. During its life, the building was a hub of industrial activity: as a sheet casting facility, building parts for the automotive industry and even contributing to the Second World War effort by producing fuselages, helmets, bullets and bayonets for the Allies. Now after almost a decade of neglect, having been shuttered in 2006, the building will be restored and once again become the centre of a thriving community.
Castlepoint Numa, the developer in charge of the project, has planned a major redesign of the area. The focal point is the restoration of the 60-metre tall Tower Automotive Building (Block 3C in the image below)—in association with heritage specialists ERA architects and Peter Clewes of architectsAlliance, responsible for the exterior and interior respectively. The development plan also features 7 new low-rise buildings along with new parks and open space as part of a complete landscaping overhaul.
Getting to this point has been a fraught with challenges: RioTinto Alcan has for several years been remediating the area’s soil, contaminated by previous industrial activity. Then on the conceptual side, the redevelopment plan itself has been forced through several iterations; first as a film campus with Pinewood Studios, then a condominium development, and finally settling on the planned commercial use. When asked about this process, Castlepoint Numa president Alfredo Romano now thinks they have made the best decision with respect to the tower. As he told the Globe and Mail, “the building as a commercial operation is better than a private residence for the community”.
MoCCA has signed a binding memorandum to occupy the bottom 2.5 floors of the restored Tower Automotive Building, which should be ready for new tenants early 2017. This nearly triples the museum’s current 990 square metre space, with an option to expand to 5,400 square metres during the 20-year lease with Castlepoint. In the meantime the museum will be closing its doors at the end of August, when the current lease at its Queen and Shaw location expires, although art lovers need not fear since the museum plans to organize temporary shows and “pop-up” exhibits around the city while they wait for their new space to be completed.
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