A Toronto arts hub looking for a home says it will file a motion for an injunction against the city on Wednesday to secure interim occupancy of space in a Queen West building that the organization says it has been entitled to for more than two years.
City lawyers as well as legal representatives for Edge on Triangle Park Inc., a subsidiary of Urbancorp, and the Toronto Media and Arts Centre (TMAC) will meet in court on Wednesday to discuss who has the right to occupy the 40,000 square feet of vacant space in a condo complex at 36 Lisgar St.
"We are trying to solve a real problem that puts our organizations at risk and all we ask is that we mitigate that risk based on the direction that negotiations have gone," said Henry Faber, board chairman at the TMAC. The arts space, completed in 2015, is designed to provide resources and networking opportunities to more than 8,000 developers and artists in Toronto, many coming from Indigenous, women's and mental health groups, Mr. Faber said.
The arts facility built into the condo complex was originally conceived as a deal among Edge, the city and TMAC as a hub for not-for-profit arts organizations to work together. After more than five years of back-and-forth changes, delays and setbacks around the space, talks broke down. TMAC announced on Monday that its proposal for interim occupancy had been rejected by the city.
Both sides offer differing perspectives on the matter. TMAC contends that Urbancorp has violated the land-use agreement in place by operating as a commercial entity in a space that was allocated for arts organizations.
When contacted about the injunction, Shane Gerard, a spokesperson from the city's strategic communications office referred The Globe and Mail to a defence statement made on June 25, 2015, detailing concerns regarding "TMAC's financial and operational problems."
The statement references problems ranging from a lack of financial resources and assets to "no experience in operating a very large number of events, which was the core of TMAC's proposed business plan."
Mr. Gerard would not comment further as to why the city rejected a recent proposal for interim occupancy made by TMAC after a meeting with Councillor Ana Bailao and city staffers on Nov. 27.
"At this time, making a statement today before there's a motion heard tomorrow is not appropriate and would not be advisable to do," Mr. Gerard said in an e-mail statement.
Attempts to reach Urbancorp were unsuccessful on Tuesday.
With January approaching, Mr. Faber is still looking for answers as to why TMAC can't occupy the building. Instead of helping to unpack boxes from member organizations into the envisioned space, Mr. Faber has been making his rounds along Queen West to help pack up equipment for storage.
"Three out of our four member organizations have expiring leases at the end of December. There's no permanency or protection for these arts organizations," Mr. Faber said.
Although no timeline has been set for the duration of proceedings in Ontario Supreme Court, Mr. Faber said that TMAC is willing to negotiate in hopes of reaching an agreement by early January. Until then, the only sign of occupancy the organization will have in the building is where "TMAC" has been engraved on two elevators.
"It's about just protecting these organizations because this whole thing has taken way longer than anyone thought," he said.