Toronto City Council moves to preserve historic Sun Oil Company building as a heritage site

A Notice of Intention to designate this Port Lands property as a heritage property was recently filed by Toronto City Council. Located at 29 Basin Street, the property is currently home to the CreateTO offices. Photo: Susan Legge

By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Toronto City Council has filed a Notice of Intention to designate the property at 29 Basin Street as a heritage building after a City Staff Research and Evaluation Report identified it as having cultural heritage value.

Widely known as the Sun Oil Company, the building, which was designed in 1931 as a two-storey warehouse structure, sits just east of Bouchette Street on the north side of the Port Lands’ Ship Channel, west of the Turning Basin.

According to the notice, the physical design, historical and contextual value meet the criteria for heritage status under Part IV (Section 29) of the Ontario Heritage Act.

The building was designed by T.H. Mothershill and Company and served as the main office for Sun Oil Company Limited and also “part of the Port Lands’ first major phase of modern development during the early twentieth century,” according to the notice on the City’s website.

Today, the site is home to CreateTO offices. However, it is part of a proposed film and television studio campus in the Port Lands after the City received a Site Plan Application for a proposed redevelopment of the building at 75 Basin Street (including 29, 35, and 41 Basin Street) on March 15, 2023.

The 59,100-square-metre development proposal – a collaboration between Hackman Capital Partners, Basin Media Hub and CreateTO – includes 12 sound stages, production offices, mill and support spaces, as well as vehicular and bicycle parking spaces.

The property at 29 Basin Street will not undergo any significant changes during development “aside from the removal of the later rear addition which dates to the 1990s,” according to a City Decision Letter dated July 23, 2023.

Designed with Classical Revival elements which can be identified by the original developers’ use of “cast stone capped piers and horizontal bands with red brick infill,” rectangular bays, and “reliance on symmetry upon the principal (north) elevation,” the property has kept its heritage facade through the years.

The Classical Revival elements can also be seen in the details of the central entryway’s brick parapet with central gable that is capped with terra-cotta coping.

In 2019, modern replicas of the old factory/warehouse style windows were installed. The aluminum-capped, fixed pane, multi-light windows served to maintain a historical appearance as 29 Basin Street, according to the notice, is “a rare surviving example within the Port Lands of an early twentieth-century industrial building.”

The building gained support for heritage status partly due to its historical value which is associated with the “first major phase of development” in the area between 1912 and 1945 “following the completion of the Toronto Harbour Commission’s 1912 Waterfront Development Eastern Section Plan.”

Another historical element that solidified the property’s status as a heritage building is its placement. Located along the north side of the Ship Channel, the building is historically connected to its use as an oil refinery and storage facility.

Although the property has been included in the City’s Heritage Register since 2004, the Notice of Intention to designate it as a heritage building was signed by the City Clerk on Tuesday, July 25.

— Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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