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How long before Parkhurst, other industries are gone?

Although virtually everything we wear comes from off shore, one of the very few Canadian clothing manufacturers still existing is right here in Leaside.

Parkhurst Knitting has been making sweaters, scarfs, hats and gloves, providing employment and paying taxes in the Leaside industrial area since 1946. It has two plants. The original fronts on Research but extends north to Vanderhoof.

Vanderhoof is now an extremely significant street in our industrial area because Vanderhoof, not Eglinton, defines the northern boundary of the industrial area.

In 1998, basing its decision on recommendations made by the East York planning staff, which had been implemented by East York Council in 1990 and 1992, the Ontario Municipal  Board moved the boundary south from Eglinton to Vanderhoof east of Brentcliffe when it approved an application to allow mixed residential and commercial uses north of Vanderhoof on property previously owned by Phillips Electronics.

That’s why today our industrial area, called the Leaside Business Park (LBP) has a residential component consisting of townhouses and two high rise apartment buildings with a third high rise under construction. In the original proposal the developer claimed that, “The project will create 4,000 additional permanent jobs,” apparently to be located in the office buildings that it also promised to build. To date there are no office buildings and no 4,000 permanent jobs.

Currently another developer wants to extend those same land uses west of Brentcliffe to build a seven-storey office building and four more high rise apartment towers.

And what about the proposed office condo development  on Wicksteed well east of Brentcliffe in the heart of the industrial area that Dag Entorning,  president of LBP, has called inconsistent with the existing manufacturing and industrial uses and a death blow to the industrial area? How will all this impact on industries such as Parkhurst? Louis Borsook, the founder of Parkhurst, was a key member of the Leaside Industrial Association organized while I was mayor of East York.

He like other association members insisted that the area remain exclusively industrial. Commercial and residential development, the association members told me, generates traffic that interferes with their deliveries and the shipment of their products.

Nearby residents and shoppers often object to the noise and odours that some industries generate. Commercial and residential development also raises land values making it attractive for industry to sell out and move on for that reason alone.

The only dissenting voice on the association at that time was Vince Benedetto, whose company Kosmor had purchased the Phillips Electonics property. Later Kosmor took East York to the OMB forcing the approval of the present residential development in our industrial area.

Parkhurst sells its products not only in Canada but in the USA, Europe, Australia and Israel. A former client of mine was surprized when I told him that Parkhurst was still manufacturing in Canada because for years now he, like virtually every other former Canadian clothing manufacturer, has been importing garments from Asia.

How, he asked, can Parkhurst survive? Parkhurst could make a very nice profit by selling out to a condo developer, exporting its jobs to and importing its sweaters from Bangladesh. Do we really want Parkhurst and our other remaining industries to survive in Leaside?  If we do we should be helping not hindering them.

The provincial government’s Smart Growth Act aimed at containing urban sprawl requires Toronto to increase its residential housing density. The city has responded with an Official Plan providing for increased residential density on main streets.

According to the Globe and Mail on April 20, 2013, Toronto’s new chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat “is keen on midrise development because it spreads development beyond the traditional core. She also wants to stem the loss of employment lands that help keep industry in Toronto.”

The potential loss of 700 jobs at Quality Meat Packers in downtown Toronto as a result of complaints from nearby newly built condos, as reported in the Toronto Star on July 5, 2013, presents Ms. Keesmaat with a real dilemma. Our industrial area now referred to by the city as the Leaside Employment Area presents her with another dilemma.

How to preserve an employment area while increasing residential density on or near Eglinton to provide the ridership increase allegedly needed to make the new Eglinton subway-LRT profitable? When I served as mayor of East York the planners told Metro Council in 1980 that a subway-LRT was necessary to accommodate the then existing traffic.

The original Leaside Official Plan clearly separated our high rise apartments in Thorncliffe from our industrial area east of Laird and our other residential and commercial areas west of Laird and north of Eglinton. As far as our industrial area is concerned that plan is now in a shambles.

With more and more residential and commercial development on its doorstep how long will it be before Parkhurst and our other industries move elsewhere or just close down altogether?