The largest development so far

The 1936 Stauntons Ltd. building
The 1936 Stauntons Ltd. building. Photo: City of Toronto Archives

There’s nothing remarkable about it. Just a typical industrial commercial block with some retail on the ground floor and a large parking lot in front.

But the site has been proposed for the largest development project in Leaside to date.

Its address (939 Eglinton East) belies its large size, extending the whole block from Eglinton to Vanderhoof, on the west side of Brentcliffe, south of Eglinton.

You know it for Nando’s Chicken, Pure Fitness, Tim Hortons, Motion Specialties and Walking on a Cloud (shoes).

There was to be a community consultation meeting to discuss the developer’s proposals on Oct. 27, after our deadline. At the North York Community Council on Sept. 8 Councillor Jon Burnside had made a motion to extend the notification area to the whole of Leaside.

The LPOA has many concerns about the use of the lands, the massing and scale, and we will return to those topics in the next issue.

A well-known developer, Diamondcorp, has proposed a mixed-use development comprising 1,500 residential units among four towers (19, 24, 31 and 34 storeys), 2,950 square metres of retail space, 9,690 square metres of office space mainly in a six-storey office building, 1,639 parking spaces in four levels of underground parking, a 0.22-hectare public park and a new 16.5-metre- wide public road.

All on the former site of the Leaside Aerodrome.

It has interesting history.

Today the site houses the head office of a very successful Canadian company, DH Corporation (formerly Davis + Henderson Corporation), which while historically specializing in printing cheques, has expanded to provide technology solutions and business services for banks and other financial services corporations.

According to Wikipedia, today only 40 percent of revenues come from cheque manufacturing.

DH recently announced that it will be moving out of the property and out of the area.

Initially, Eglinton and Brentcliffe/Vanderhoof was north of the industrial area designated in Frederick Todd’s town plan of 1912. However in 1917 there was a need for an airfield to train pilots for the Royal Flying Corps and the area north of Wicksteed Ave. was chosen.

After World War I the airfield closed and Eglinton replaced Wicksteed as the northern boundary of the industrial area. In the 1920s and 1930s a host of industries settled in Leaside, attracted by cheap land, low taxes, access to the Toronto market and access to two railways. In 1931 Leaside’s industrial zone was home to 29 companies, and by 1939 this had risen to 52.

In 1936, Stauntons Ltd., a Toronto wallpaper manufacturer, built a factory in Leaside, which was designed by well-known Toronto architects Mathers and Haldenby. In the 1950s Stauntons was bought out by the Canadian Wallpaper Company, and Regal Greetings and Gifts Inc. occupied the property from 1953 through to 2006. It was the head office, manufacturing plant and store outlet for a business with annual sales exceeding $100 million in 1999. In 2005 Regal moved to Mississauga and DH Corporation has been at 939 ever since.

What about the building? It appears to be pretty much the original one. At least its bones are original. However a modernization project in 1986 that “re-skinned” the building with mirrored glass and stucco transformed the outside of the building and gave it an art deco look. At the same time an underground parking lot east of the building was added.

There is no question that the building was well-built and has not only survived its almost 80 years, but has been re-purposed for new uses several times. However, whether it should be considered as “heritage”, given its utilitarian function and uses, and its extensive but largely cosmetic changes, deserves further study.

About Geoff Kettel 222 Articles
Geoff Kettel is a community connector and advocate for “making places better”. He is currently Co-President of the Leaside Residents Association, Co-Chair of the Federation of North Toronto Residents‘ Associations (FoNTRA), member of the Toronto Preservation Board and Past Chair of the North York Community Preservation Panel. He writes a monthly column on heritage and planning in Leaside Life.