Community wants to preserve Kodak building while Metrolinx plans LRT station

WATCH: Metrolinx is planning to turn the Kodak building into a new station along the Eglinton Crosstown. Mark McAllister reports. 

TORONTO – What do you do with a huge, dilapidated building that used to be a part of Kodak’s Toronto campus?

Building 9, located on Eglinton Avenue just west Black Creek Drive, was built in 1940 and served as a key part of Kodak’s manufacturing centre until 2006 when it was closed.

Now, the building sits empty with graffiti covering the walls, while a glut of garbage and broken glass from shattered windows coat the floors.

Metrolinx purchased the property from Kodak in 2012 and plans to convert it into the new Mount Dennis station on the under-construction Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit (LRT) line. But Metrolinx has also heard from a vocal local community who wants to try and preserve some of the buildings heritage.

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“When we purchased the Kodak lands, we acquired the Kodak building. In consultations with the local community, there was a strong interest in us preserving that building,” Jamie Robinson, Metrolinx director of community relations, said in an interview Friday. “So we’re currently in the process of buttoning down the building so that it doesn’t deteriorate any further.”

Over the next few months, Metrolinx will be boarding up broken windows, adding security guards to the site and fixing leaks to prevent any further disrepair on the building.

The Eglinton Crosstown is a provincially funded $4.9 billion, 19-kilometre east-west light rail line that goes from Kennedy Road in the east to Mount Dennis in the west.

Kodak was, at one time, an industry leader in photography. But it failed to keep up with an evolving industry and filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

Peter Gatt, the executive director of the Photographic Museum of Ontario, wants the building renovated to celebrate Kodak’s photographic legacy.

“Basically we want to preserve this building and convert it to the new home for the Photographic Museum of Ontario. We also want to build a second building to illustrate the newer part of photography,” Gatt said in an interview Friday.

“Kodak had such an important part of the history of Toronto and the Mt. Dennis area. We want to preserve that history of the building and the old film or analog photography that they had.”

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Gatt tried to crowdfund enough money to purchase the building. He also had a mock design of the building drawn.

photographic museum of ontario kodak
A sketch of the proposed Photographic Museum of Ontario. Handout / Peter Gatt

Gatt wants the entire building used as a museum for film photography and a second building built to showcase digital photography. Metrolinx, however, plans to use much of the building for a new station and the majority of the nearby grounds for a bus bay and maintenance facility. By all accounts, Gatt’s plan seems doomed.

But there’s still hope.

Robinson said Friday that Metrolinx is hoping to meet with Gatt and is “open” to the idea of celebrating Kodak’s legacy with a smaller museum.

“The Photographic Museum of Ontario may be interested in that and we’re currently trying to arrange a meeting with them,” he said.

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While Metrolinx maintains its open to preserving Kodak’s legacy in some form, they are also in talks with various Greater Toronto Area colleges that may build satellite campuses on the grounds, Robinson said. He would not say which colleges.

– With files from Mark McAllister