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What does the future hold for the Hearn?

Posted by Derek Flack / July 9, 2014

Hearn Generating StationIt's been a while since the future of the Hearn Generating Station has drawn much discussion. The sweeping industrial site, which last operated in the early 1980s, has sat dormant for years, occasionally hosting film shoots and intrepid urban explorers. Last we wrote about the site, Studious of America, the company with the lease for the property, proposed that it be retrofitted for a hockey rink complex. That idea is once again a conversation piece as city council is set to vote on a motion to have staff examine the site's suitability for a sports and culture facility.

While it would cost a whole lot more than this, there is $32.4 million in city funds set aside for a sports facility that has yet to be used. If given the green light, the authors of the report, which would include input from the group Friends of the Hearn, would be tasked with making a compelling business case for transforming the 1950s power station into a modern facility. Aside from the above mentioned funds, the reason why a sports complex is one of the favoured scenarios is the sheer size of the building, which covers 2.3 hectares.

It's also a rock solid structure thanks to its former use as a generating station, so the structure itself is well-suited to a retrofit. Talk of demolishing the building and redeveloping the site is never too far away, but it would be a real shame to see an opportunity of this magnitude wasted. No, we're not likely to be so bold a city as to turn the Hearn into a cultural institution like the Tate Modern (especially in the mostly undeveloped Port Lands), but a sprawling sports facility might be just the type of kickstart the area needs.

Photo by twurdemann in the blogTO Flickr pool.



Gary / July 9, 2014 at 03:07 pm
I'd love to see a museum of modern art or some other type of major tourist attraction go into the Hearn. Toronto needs more tourist attractions and fun areas to visit. We seem to pay so little attention to building tourism and creating fun, lively, commercial/cultural districts. We are too obsessed with boring, grey, glass, boxy condos on every available piece of land.

What about cinemas, night clubs, live theatre, art galleries, concert venues, public squares, museums, amusements and just fun things for those condo dwellers and tourists to do? Torontonians like to have a bit of fun every now and then, whether that be at a museum, festival or night club. Make the Hearn something of quality but also a fun place for Torontonians and tourists. For a city our size, we have few major attractions. We need a City Of Toronto Museum at Old City Hall and a Museum of Modern Art at the Hearn!
Danny replying to a comment from Gary / July 9, 2014 at 03:16 pm
No. Transit access is terrible, and as the article correctly states the Port Lands are mostly undeveloped. No such tourist attraction would be able to survive for at least another 5-10 years when development is well underway.

There's plenty of other things to do downtown.
MSigs / July 9, 2014 at 03:16 pm
It would be such a waste not to develop it into a multi-use facility.

Sure arenas would be great but do we need 2.3 hectors of them? Just my opinion.
Long Branch Mike replying to a comment from Danny / July 9, 2014 at 04:17 pm
The TTC is building the Cherry Street streetcar line, but the first phase only goes from King Street to Lakeshore Blvd.

But the original plans called for the line to extend further south into redeveloped Port Lands.

Ideally a streetcar line will lead development of the Port Lands, but the way things go in Toronto, it could follow 10-30 years later.
r / July 9, 2014 at 04:39 pm
amusment park
Potrzebie / July 9, 2014 at 04:53 pm
Do nothing and let the critters and the elements have at 'er.
Same with the Canada Malting silo.

Toronto could use a good crumbly ruin or two.

Cliff S / July 9, 2014 at 05:50 pm
I think it should be filled with condo's
GeorgeC / July 9, 2014 at 07:39 pm
make it a prison ,house 1000's and 1000's of high profile criminals, then shut it down in about 100yrs then open it as a tourist attraction. Like would spawn movies , books biographies, documentaries maybe even a mini series.
George Bell / July 9, 2014 at 08:20 pm
It should be a Canadian Industry, Flight and Transit museum, it is about the same size as the Udvar-Hazy National Air and Space museum (which has a space shuttle, and a SR71)...subways, trains, plains and industrial equipment (mining, power generation, etc)...the site is amazingly connected - close to the highway, there is a plan for streetcar from union, and it will be close to the DRL stop at queen/DVP, it also has rails already on site (and in the neighbourhood, so a steam train could actually be demonstrated on a back-and-forth short trip), it is also on the lake, and near an airport - so getting large items to it (maybe a submarine) would be relatively easy....structurally it could support hanging's closer to downtown that Udvar-Hazy is to washington...and it would be the sort of thing that would encourage lots of development in the would likely take a few years to acquire the items needed to put a museum of this scale together - and the building could be opened in stages as they build the collection.
Spike / July 9, 2014 at 08:31 pm
Too bad it can't be a nuclear power station...
PatriciaB / July 9, 2014 at 10:18 pm
A sports facility is a great idea. We need to be enjoying, viewing and celebrating sports as part of everyday life. Having the facility geared at Torontonians rather than tourist makes the most sense.
Ismene / July 9, 2014 at 10:21 pm
I'm with George Bell. We recently lost our Toronto air and space museum; the exhibits still exist and are in storage. They are valuable and important. This is a perfect location for something really beautiful and stunning, dedicated to technology in the perfect technology-based structure. Run a dedicated bus if transit is a problem. The equivalent museum in Ottawa runs only a bus to its site (actually only runs buses to everywhere, oh, Ottawa) and does fine with visitors.

It could take in industrial and technological modern art projects as well and offer some kind of small energy museum.

Yes, Toronto would never do anything so bold. But we should dare to dream! What a perfect space!
Ismene replying to a comment from PatriciaB / July 9, 2014 at 10:47 pm
Just to be clear, a museum is not simply a "tourist" destination. Museums are research facilities that also provide a valuable educational and entertainment focus for a whole city worth of people.

I am a healthy person, but I do not particularly enjoy watching or participating in group professional/organized sports. I am much more likely to visit the AGO on free Wednesday night, for example, or even pay to visit the quite expensive ROM, than attend a sports activity. For me, museums are part of the rich culture of the area, as well as an extremely valuable historical/research resource for the whole city/province/country (or that is what they are intended to be, sometimes I think that gets lost). The Smithsonian, the museums in New York and London: all are attended by and extremely valuable to locals as well as being central and iconic tourist destinations. We're big enough. We can be iconic, too!

The benefit of the cutting edge, research-heavy museum/gallery/cultural centre is that it is more like to attract tourists/researchers/interested amateurs in addition to locals. That is important revenue on top of cultural value. Anything that draws tourists to Toronto--especially to presently underdeveloped corners of the city--should not be sniffed at.
Andrew / July 10, 2014 at 01:36 am
I'm always in favour of more arts space, but Toronto already has a contemporary art gallery in an old power plant, and it's called The Power Plant. As long as the building gets reused as something public I'll be happy.
Richard Nelson / July 10, 2014 at 06:19 am
This will probably mark me as a Philistine, but I don't understand the resistance to demolition. I've run and biked and walked many times past the facility and I have a kind of little-kid awe of industrial sites, but there's nothing particularly noteworthy or attractive about the Hearn building. Despite the writer's assertion about the building's structure, a retrofit will always be more expensive than a new build; and we (as the folks paying for it :-) should ask ourselves if that extra money is worth it.

Finally, several of the comments suggest that the facility MUST be used for a public use, with suggestions made to fit the Procrustean bed of what's there - if those public uses are valuable, then let's find a place and building that suits them rather than trying to make Hearn fit them or vice versa.
toronto dude replying to a comment from George Bell / July 10, 2014 at 08:12 am
that's a fantastic idea! a museum and research centre dedicated to Industry, Flight and Transit would be fantastic. until a transit line is built out there in.....50 years....a shuttle bus service could run from Union.

the amazing Udvar-Hazy building (if u love air/space craft, you have to visit asap) in Washington is 30-45 minutes away from Dulles which itself is a good 45 minutes away from downtown so this would be alot closer to our downtown.

since Ottawa has already sucked away alot of potential exhibits, including industry like moving the moving the Redpath Sugar Museum would make for a unique experience.

unfortunately, i have 0 confidence in politicians to get it done in a timely and cost efficient manner. i would also suspect that the site holds many nasty pollution secrets that would only come to light once construction started. lastly...there is an operating gas power plant right next door too so there is that issue too.
MH replying to a comment from Ismene / July 10, 2014 at 10:56 am
Agreed. How many tourists arrive in city and say: "Oh boy! They have a big hockey rink. Let's go!"
Turning it into the kind of sports complex that is being suggested has a very narrow appeal. Only locals with an interest in those sports will ever see the inside of it. There is huge potential to turn it into a landmark cultural/retail destination. Take the Distillery District as an example of how successfully old industrial infrastructure can be preserved and transformed into a defining Toronto landmark that draws tourists and locals alike.
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