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Building Nine, Kodak Heights

May 4, 2014

The Eastman Kodak Company was founded in 1888 in Rochester, NY. The company is probably best known for their development of Kodachrome film, one of the first successful colour films on the market. Kodachrome was made for both still photography and cinematography. Kodak grew to huge new sizes with their innovative film products, holding 90% of the film market in the US until the 70s. Kodak began operating in Canada in 1900, with an office in downtown Toronto, where 15 employees performed hand work cutting film and fitting lenses. The company then moved to a location on King St, employing about 400 workers. In 1913, Kodak built an industrial campus with more than a dozen buildings in Mount Dennis, known as ‘Kodak Heights’.

Mount Dennis was a very small town when Kodak first moved in; the huge plant brought new business to the community. Kodak, along with a few other new major employers to the area, built new residential developments in the area for the quickly growing number of employees. Because of this sudden growth, Mount Dennis became known as an ‘unintentional suburb’ of Toronto. Kodak Heights had a seemingly strong connection with the community, offering competitive wages and compensations, and even having several clubs for the staff of the facility. Employment reached its peak in the 70s, with more than 3000 people working daily. Times were good for Kodak Canada and its parent company, though this success in part led the company to its (near) demise. As the change to digital came to the world of photography, Kodak was either unable or unwilling to make changes for the future. The company’s past success seemed to make the owners think they were unbeatable or unstoppable.

Kodak Heights was closed in 2005. For about a year it rested, undisturbed other than by occasional trespassers. Looking through photos of the complex taken by urban explorers, I wish I had the opportunity to have looked around the campus for a while. In 2006, the entire site was sold to Metrus Properties, which flattened the factory except for building nine, the Employee’s building, which was given heritage status earlier the same year. Building nine rested, along with the rest of the empty property, with no concrete plans for its future. Slowly the building deteriorated, as countless numbers of explorers, punks, and junkies found there way into the last standing feature of Kodak Heights.

Seven years later, and the destruction has amounted such that there is nothing recognizable left inside the building. Wandering the Employee’s building, there was nothing that hinted towards the community I read about. The gymnasium, which features a stage and lighting room, is where the Kodak Theatre Group put on annual productions. Today the wooden floorboards are missing and scorched from an arsonist’s afternoon leisure; the stage is covered in debris from the caving ceiling. The building desperately needs a new life.

Metrolinx has just the answer for us: It sees building nine as potential for the new Eglinton Crosstown. Metrolinx wants to use it’s prime location beside the GO line to build a transfer station between the GO line, Eglinton LRT, and TTC Busses. Proposed plans for how the station might look within the neighbourhood described building nine as the “heart of the station”. Although these plans are not final yet, I think they would be a very worthy new use for the Kodak lands.

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  1. Urban Decay, Death, and New Life | twinpowered

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