Historic Toronto post office sold to company with zero plans and the community is livid
For months, community members and politicians fought to keep a historic Queen Street West post office in public hands, but this month they learned it was sold to a private company.
The community has been working to save the former Canada Post building at 1117 Queen St. W. since it was posted for sale in the summer. The listing from Colliers hinted at possible uses for the building as retail, residential or mixed use — which to most people in Toronto means yet another historic building being turned into condos.
The building was sold to Queen St. Post Inc. in December, and despite the rumours, it sold for fair market value — not $0, as public land title documents seem to indicate, according to Davenport MP Julie Dzerowicz.
"I do not know the exact amount but if I had to GUESS it would be upwards of $20 million – $25 million," Dzerowicz said in a message to constituents. "It did not sell for $0."
Dzerowicz noted last year that the federal government does not have a say on how the building is used and that Canada Post, as an independent Crown corporation, has a responsibility to Canadians to get fair market value on the sale of any properties.
Community members were out today in support of PUBLIC land in PUBLIC hands! Fighting to save 1117 Queen West - a unique heritage building in the round, next to a public park, in one of Toronto's most famous neighbourhoods. Given away by the Federal Government in a backroom deal. pic.twitter.com/KpXYzQywmk— WQW Community Post (@qwCommunityPost) January 8, 2022
Robert Bielak, a director of Queen Street Post Inc., told the Toronto Star that there is "zero plan" for the property, and that news doesn't sit well with West Queen West Community Post (WQW Community Post), a group that has been fighting to keep the building public.
Michelle Gay, an artist and member of the WQW Community Post group, says she wonders why Canada Post had a letters of interest process to select a developer, but then chose a purchaser with no plan.
"That seems very strange," Gay tells blogTO. "I don't know how we find out what the real plans are, if there are real plans."
WQW Community Post also points to a connection between Doug Ford and the buyer but there is no evidence that Ford had any influence over the sale. When asked, Ford spokesperson Ivana Yelich said it "is a federal matter. The building is owned by Canada Post."
A public heritage building & desperately needed community centre sold for $0? To a Doug Ford insider!?! After @canadapostcorp REFUSED to talk to community members! @JustinTrudeau @FilomenaTassi how could you let this happen? pic.twitter.com/uvKDmxgZMW— WQW Community Post (@qwCommunityPost) January 6, 2022
There was no information on the process Canada Post went through to select Queen Street Post Inc. and why they were chosen. There is a lack of transparency, Gay says.
"It's disappointing because it's a heritage-listed building," Gay says.
While it is listed on the City of Toronto's heritage register, it isn't designated under the Ontario Heritage Act and therefore not protected.
Yet the building is of historic importance as one of Toronto's oldest purpose-built post offices, and, according to ACO Toronto, Postal Station C was designed in 1902 by Samuel George Curry. It operated for 118 years until it closed in the autumn of 2020.
Councillor Ana Bailão says she will help get the building a heritage designation.
Here is my statement: pic.twitter.com/ntu8F9mOWh— Ana Bailão (@anabailaoTO) January 7, 2022
WQW Community Post now plans to focus their energy on saving the historic building and start a national dialogue on the future of Canada's surplus federal properties.
Still, the group is saddened by the outcome for this public building and the lost opportunity to keep it in the hands of the public.
"It's a lost potential for a beautiful community space, whatever that might be," says Gay.
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