What: Toronto's industrial heritage
Where: 7 Fraser Avenue
It's one of the city's last original warehouses, a forgotten shed that nearly a century of winters has worn to a state of visible disrepair. Sitting at the bottom of a dead-end street, the building is engulfed by the hip new Liberty Village, so how much longer can it survive?
Not long if the city adopts a report issued last year recommending an end to live/work zoning in the area.
The 7 may be a wreck on the outside, but it's bursting with entrepreneurial vigour inside: a stage lighting company, a jewellery maker, a plumber, a home brewing supplier, a masseuse, a contractor, a Pilates and yoga studio, an IT specialist, two painters, a filmmaker, a clockmaker and a notorious after-hours hot spot. Each unit blends traces of the building's long industrial past with the style, taste and needs of the current tenant, making it a perfect example of the factors that give the neighbourhood its urban-chic feel.
Despite community feeling, the decision about 7 Fraser's fate rests with the city, which has back-burnered the zoning report pending consultations with worried tenants. It also rests with the owners, a consortium of investors. Jack Tannenbaum of Fraser Avenue Holdings chooses not to comment on the building's future.
"Number 7's outer appearance doesn't in any way reflect what amazing things are happening inside," says Lynn Clay, executive director of the Liberty Village BIA . She trails off. She says she "would love to have what's happening here continue" -- perhaps with a new coat of paint.
The local councillor agrees. "It's important to retain the character of Liberty Village as it is, rather than allowing the kind of changes that have occurred to the east," says Sylvia Watson .
By this she means east of Atlantic Avenue, where most of the heritage structures have been razed for shiny new condo towers and townhouses.
The irony of this situation isn't lost on 7's tenants. They give the building purpose and character. At the same time, they make the property an attractive sell to someone who may evict them.