Non-Profit Group Sues City of Toronto for Breach of Contract

The transformation of Parkdale – and in particular Queen Street West – from grotty to gentrified condo heaven over the last decade or so has been great for retail but perhaps not so much for the artists and arts organizations who first gave the neighbourhood its chic-cool cachet. After all, artists need cheap, larger spaces… just the kind of spaces that are becoming scarcer and scarcer.

That’s the backdrop for a breach of contract suit filed by The Toronto Media Arts Centre against the City and Urbancorp, a developer. At issue is a proposed arts centre that was to be built near Queen Street West and Dovercourt, at the base of the Edge on Triangle Park condo complex. The arts group waited four years for the arts centre project – a massive 36,000 square foot facility – to come to fruition. In May, the city informed them that their agreement of purchase and sale had been terminated because the developer had missed a deadline. The project was seen to counter the gentrification of the neighbourhood and firmly re-establish the area as an arts hub and the arts group in question has been left without any facility at this point.

The Tangled Story

According to the agreement of purchase and sale, any extensions of deadlines had to be approved by all three parties – the city, the Toronto Media Arts Centre ( TMAC) group and Urbancorp. While the arts group had automatically approved an extension when the developer went behind schedule, the city abruptly cancelled the agreement.

Throwing a monkey wrench into the mix is that city Councilor Ana Bailao took the step of getting another developer involved in the project. Artscape is a not-for-profit developer and the TMAC group alleges that the Councilor wanted Artscape to take over the facility. There have been public statements back and forth between Artscape – who claims they were called in to help manage a crisis – and TMAC – who says the only crisis was Urbancorp’s lateness.

Councilor Bailao, who sits on Artscape’s board, seemed to assume control of the project, telling a meeting of stakeholders that she was the one who would be deciding the project’s future. Urbancorp’s president and CEO is also a fundraiser for Artscape.

The Issues

The lawsuit is based on the principle of “specific performance”. It’s an alternative to monetary compensation in a breach of contract case. It means essentially that the suing party simply wants the deal to go through as it was intended to – here, the TMAC wants the project to continue and to occupy the facility, which is partly constructed at this point.

  • When the Councilor claimed to be taking control over the project, was she already breaching what TMAC says was a done deal?
  • How did the tangled relationships between the parties affect the outcome?
  • What does the contract wording actually spell out when it comes to extensions and what – if any – criteria was to be used in cancelling the agreement of purchase and sale?

We Can Help

When you enter into an agreement that can span months or years, you need to know that it will hold up over time – and not fall into disarray as did this one. The best way to do that is to get help in setting up your contract before you sign on the dotted line.

Let us help you sort out the issues and any potential conflicts you might encounter, along with any other questions you may have. A full and complete understanding of your employment contract is your best protection against future problems.

If you are already working under a contract and issues have come up, don’t hesitate – you need expert legal advice. You’ll need the help of experienced breach of contract lawyers.  If you think your rights under a contractual agreement are being disregarded contact Petrillo Law today or call us (905) 949-9433 for a free consultation with an experienced contract lawyer.  We look forward to hearing from you.

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