Toronto Media Arts Cluster (TMAC) and Active 18 Community Organization (www.active18.net) are pleased announce and celebrate the approval by Toronto and East York Community Council (TEYCC) of the re-zoning of the development at 2 – 6 Lisgar Avenue and of a Section 37 Agreement with Urbancorp Developments which will provide TMAC with 36,000 sq ft of space at an affordable price and establish a media arts cluster in The Edge condo.
TMAC, a charitable non-profit corporation was founded to provide a permanent, affordable home for some of Toronto’s most durable and respected media arts organizations. This group of seven artist-run non-profit organizations have sought for many years, to buy space, in order to bring together their media and video related organizations and find a permanent and affordable home.
TMAC organizations include:
Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre, is a leader in promoting and distributing independently produced films, for the last 45 years.
Charles Street Video, provides artists with affordable access to video and electronic media production and post-production tools. Its mandate includes residencies, commissions, scholarships, youth programs and other support for emerging artists. Gallery TPW, explores the exchange between photography, new technologies and time-based media, presenting exhibitions that support a critical dialogue on the role of images in contemporary culture.
Images Festival, hosts an internationally recognized Canadian festival showcasing independent film and video from all regions in Canada.
InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, is a public gallery, teaching facility, and production studio dedicated to the creative use of technology, electronic art, and new media culture.
Le Labo, facilitates francophone media arts projects through access to a media production space, residencies, exhibitions, workshops, conferences, artist talks and professional and artistic partnerships.
Toronto Animated Image Society, explores and promotes the art of animation and strengthens connections among independent animation artists with unique production facilities, workshops, artist talks and screenings.
TMAC, as a non-profit umbrella corporation, will own and operate the new space which it is buying from Urbancorp on very favourable terms. (see below)
Urbancorp is major Toronto developer headed by Alan Saskin. Urbancorp is currently developing two sites in the West Queen West Triangle, The Edge, a two tower condo at 2 – 6 Lisgar on a podium and The Epic at 48 Abell. These are on, respectively, the south and the west side of a new park soon to be built out between Lisgar and Abell with frontage on Queen West (currently the Green P Parking lot).
On April 17 TEYCC approved zoning for these two projects allowing greater height in exchange for Urbancorp’s sale to TMAC of 36,000 sq ft of space which will occupy the second and third floors of the Edge condo project, overlooking the new park. The space will include a 200+ theatre for film and video presentation, gallery spaces, production and training studio, independent office/work spaces for the organizations involved and efficiencies will be found in shared spaces such as boardroom, theatre, kitchens and other facilities.
The space will be built out by the developer and ‘purchased’ by TMAC subject only to a $3M take back mortgage. The value – at cost – of this facility has been estimated at $9M. The ownership of the space is guaranteed for non-profit arts or community use in perpetuity.
Active18 reviewed the proposal in detail and gave its support. It concluded that the extra shadowing on the park – above and beyond what would happen anyhow with permitted uses – was not so significant to outweigh the major benefit to the community of this new arts facility.
The Planning and Culture Departments supported the proposal with some reservations regarding the amount of additional height. Councilor Bailao and TEYCC approved a compromise position sufficient to allow the developer the extra density necessary to finance the new facility.
The project is result of many months of detailed negotiations involving TMAC, its professional consultants and architects, Culture and Planning Department officials, Councilor Bailao, Active18 and Urbancorp. It is particularly noteworthy that the developer, Urbancorp financed the extensive professional consulting work required by TMAC, architects, engineers and business consultants. The estimated cost of all this carried by the developer, long before City approval was given, is approximately $500,000.
What’s to Celebrate
– TMAC is launched as new arts organization providing owned and affordable space to several long-standing and successful artist-run centres. It is no small matter that these organization are now safe from the escalating cost of rental space which is removing affordable studio, production and presentation spaces for the arts in downtown Toronto.
– TMAC is launched as an exciting ‘hub’ for new media
– TMAC and WQW neighbourhood – get a dedicated small theatre to show experimental and independent works
– The City and the WQW neighbourhood gets a great new facility which will help preserve the character of the neighbourhood as a contemporary arts destination.
What Section 37 of The Planning Act Can Do
The major condo development in the WQW area (20 different projects in the last six years in various stages of discussion and development) has yielded some notable community benefits by management of various section 37 benefits.
– The historic Carnegie Library is well on its way to a renovation and conversion to an internationally noteworthy theatre venue with key funding from $1M from section 37. (There is more heritage funding from Provincial and Federal sources for the project.)
– This City’s Department of Health which has occupied this building for many years is getting new and free space in a newly constructed rental building – under another Section 37 Agreement.
– A new park – the first in the City in many years – is in the final stages of design. The build out of the park is funded by Section 37 funds from The Bohemian Embassy and’ Art Lofts’ condo projects.
– The building at 150 Sudbury, now occupied, was the subject of yet another Section 37 Agreement which provided for 70 artist owned or rented units under the aegis of Artscape.
– The purchase of space in the The Epic, now under construction by Toronto’s renowned Art Metropole, under favourable terms written into the Section 37 Agreement at an earlier stage.
This tangled mess of Section 37 benefits adds up to an interesting and beneficial result for the neighbourhood and an example for the City of what can be done. It does not undue the bad planning result imposed on the City and the neighbourhood by the OMB in 2007 – too many buildings and second tier design – but it does inject the capital required to build out a set of arts facilities to maintain the character of the neighbourhood.
Section 37 is often disparaged as an unjustifiable and arbitrary ‘tax’. Here the neighbourhood has been able to knit these benefits together for a lasting and visible and major benefit to the neighbourhood.