Skip to content

Historic Toronto Post Office Sells Despite Local Opposition

Devin Glowinski feels a palpable sense of loss as he walks past the historic old post office on the corner of Queen Street West and Lisgar Street in Toronto’s Davenport neighborhood.

Despite months of community efforts – of which Glowinski was a part – to convince Canada Post to suspend the sale of the 120-year-old building to private interests, the federal crown corporation did just that last month.

Glowinski and other community stakeholders believe the sale was rushed and lacked transparency at a time when the city was concerned about simply weathering the COVID-19 pandemic. Glowinski says the sale of the building to a private company represents a lost opportunity to keep a public building in public hands.

“Our cities have lost so many artistic and cultural spaces during the pandemic,” said Glowinski, professor of urban policy at Ryerson University and an eight-year resident of the Davenport neighborhood who lives half a block north. of the old post office. “My local bar was the Beaver, which closed in 2020. It was more of a community space than a bar. As I walk past the Canada Post building, I see that there was a deep sense of opportunity for where our neighborhood can become again. “

The former “C” Post Station at 1117 Queen Street West has long been a part of the architecture of Queen West. Built in 1902, the building is in the heart of the neighborhood, directly across from the local hot spots of the Drake Hotel and down the street from Gladstone House. Designed by renowned Canadian architect Samuel George Curry, the distinctive 11,354-square-foot, two-story red brick building is listed on the city’s heritage register.

The future of the building became a pressing question in the minds of concerned residents and their political representatives when Canada Post put the building up for sale last summer.

The Canada Post Act gives the crown corporation the right to sell any property it owns, and it has done so for several years in an attempt to stem the loss of revenue of hundreds of millions of dollars.

A group of local citizens, West Queen West Community Post, supported by City Councilor Ana Bailão (Davenport, Ward 9) and Local MP Julie Dzerowicz (Liberal), pleaded for the site to be turned into a community art center and an incubator for cultural social enterprises.

Canada Post issued a tender with a deadline of July 14, 2021, which was pushed back just a week after Dzerowicz requested an additional six months to allow for an assessment of the best interests of the local community and to allow time for more public consultations.

Toronto City Council also passed a motion brought by Bailão on July 14 calling for an immediate end to the sale.

But in vain. According to the land title documents, the building was sold to a company called Queen Street Post Inc. on December 15 for “$ 0”.

Robert Bielak, director of Queen Street Post Inc., declined to reveal to The Star how much the company paid and said there is currently a “zero plan” for the property.

“It’s not like I have this master plan of what the idea of ​​doing there,” Bielak told The Star. “Everyone’s all excited, but I don’t think there’s going to be anything going on there for a while to be candid enough with you.

“I saw the list and called and that’s how it evolved,” he added. “It’s not like there’s some sort of crazy idea or plan on this building.”

Canada Post said in an email to The Star that it was paid at fair market value when the property was sold, but would not disclose a value.

“We completed the sale of the old post office last fall with an open and comprehensive process,” said spokesperson Phil Legault. “The buyer has chosen not to have the actual sale price shown in the transfer filed in the land registry system, which he is allowed to do.”

He added that since 2019, Canada Post has had “ongoing conversations with the local MP and other stakeholders to share information and explain our process.”

Bailão told The Star that she believed the sale was a “missed opportunity for a great city-building initiative”.

“The city is growing and we also need to develop our social infrastructure and places like this are great spaces for these services in our communities,” she added. “We wanted to have the opportunity to have organizations capable of putting together an offer. That was really the end goal when we found out that it was going to go on sale. It was like, at least giving us time to prepare an offer. But we didn’t have that here.

She noted that now that 1117 Queen Street West is in private hands, the city can proceed with the full designation of the property as heritage property, a process that was not possible while it was owned by a federal Crown corporation. .

More generally, Dzerowicz says that the situation at 1117 Queen Street West has highlighted the policy gaps regarding the many Crown corporations and federal agencies that are allowed to sell land they own “without any consideration of the needs of the government. the local community and / or the best interests or increased needs of Canadians.

“We need to do a review of all crown corporations and federal agencies that have access to commercial land at a time when we have an affordability crisis,” she said, noting that she had raised the issue. with the former Minister of Public Services and Procurement. Anita Anand and the current Minister Filomena Tassi.

“This should be a key priority for our government to consider. “