Abandonment Issues: Formax Factory

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Only days after a remarkable day of exploring in Toronto that included the historical Loblaw Groceteria, the repugnant Wellington Destructor, and the sketchy Canadian Foundry, Ninja and I discovered this location yesterday morning, Canada Day. Following a lead from a newspaper article just days before, we went by to scope the building out, assuming it would be a small, sealed, boring building. It wasn't any of those things. It was full of interesting features and still contained tons of things and stuff to poke through. We were not prepared for exploring an industrial site on this day. In fact we were headed to the beach wearing bathing suits and Birkenstocks. Nevertheless, when an opportunity presents itself, we take it. We spent an hour or so exploring and shooting before continuing on to the beach.

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Today, I wanted another look, so while Ninja was at work, I returned to the former Formax Factory in Peterborough, Ontario, with my friends Joe and Gea. Only a few minutes in to our visit, three men entered the building via the rear garage door. Gea disappeared into a corner and I was in the next room, but Joe was right in their line of sight. They approached him and inquired about his presence. I heard this and made my own presence known immediately, camera in hand. One man stated that we were criminally trespassing and that the police often stop in and charge people that trespass at this site. We quickly asserted our intentions to photograph the location, which seemed to settle their scepticism and discomfort. I began to ask questions and while trepidatious at first, they slowly began to respond until eventually a pleasant conversation ensued. The chartered accountant representing the property's owner introduced himself as Tony, and gave me his contact information, stating that if I would like to return in the future, that I please contact him beforehand, instead of committing criminal trespass.

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As of yet, I have been unable to ascertain when the building was constructed, or what companies and uses it served before being occupied by Formax.

Formax Enterprises Ltd. contaminated the soil and sewage lagoons while using heavy metals for plating operations at this facility until sometime in the 1990s. The bulk of the factory has not been used since their departure, and several vats and barrels of unlabelled hazardous chemicals still sit dormant on the concrete floor.

In approximately 2001, a numbered corporation known as 1675595 Ontario Ltd. purchased the property and utilized the room at the rear of the building for storage, as well as the long office spaces that ran the length of the building until they were destroyed by fire on August 15th, 2011. The fire was deemed suspicious as there were no flammable liquids or electricity in the offices.

The numbered corporation has never paid any of its property taxes during its twelve years of ownership. According to the Peterborough Examiner article that first caught my attention, the "property taxes for the property totalled $21,415 last year. The property had an assessed value of $1,021,500 in 2009. A reassessment brought the value down to $463,174 in 2010... the municipality is looking at taking ownership of the contaminated industrial property... the municipality has put it up for tax sale to collect back taxes with the expectation that it won’t get any qualifying bids. The minimum bid is a little more than $1.8 million, more than triple the property’s assessed value of $550,750 for this year. Plus any owner would be taking on the liability of having to clean up the historical environmental contamination on the industrial property."

Aside from not paying its property taxes, and a suspicious fire, the numbered corporation has also been cited for storing a mountain of shingles at the rear of the building, which it is not zoned for, nor has it cleaned up as of yet.

Formax contaminates the site, and walks away. A numbered corporation ignores laws and doesn't pay its property taxes, or clean up it's own mess. And this is all acceptable behaviour for which we, the taxpayers, are on the hook.

With all that history of corporate abuse in mind, in the grand scheme of things, trespassing for photographic documentation doesn't seem so unethical, does it?

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Much of the roof has been gone for a long time now, and the small part that remains is in a state of collapse on the front portion of the building. The structural beams, once painted white, are exposed to the elements and rusting from enduring years of rain and snowfall, and the paint on the white brick walls is peeling from years of sun exposure. Amidst the decay are signs of life; weeds growing from the cracks in the concrete floor, a squirrel darting overhead on a cross beam and a swarm of mosquitoes gathered in the second floor offices using me as a blood bank.

Another sign of life comes in the form of graffiti; fresh paint has been used to decorate these walls recently. The interior portions are bombed sequentially like a passing freight train stalled in place. One name repeats itself ad infinitum, SENOR, a graffiti artist from Brantford, Ontario. SENOR made this his playground, and in my opinion added colour, beauty and soul to this dirty contaminated structure that can never be saved or salvaged.

Plenty of signs of former life are also present. Odds and ends remain throughout the building, inside and out. In the second storey offices, desks are covered with binders, paperwork and even a typewriter covered in pigeon poop. In the rear portion, hundreds of wooden crates left behind by the numbered corporation are piled high, filled with thousands of small cupboard and cabinet doors. In this area local youth have created a makeshift skate park.

There is still more digging around to do and surely these two visits depicted in these photographs will not be my last.

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Corporations are always looking for a way out.

I'm usually looking for a way in.

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*** UPDATE ***

April 6th, 2014

Countless regular return visits ensued over the course of the past 9 months and nothing ever really changed here but for the seasons.

This morning however is a different story. All of the two dozen or so possible entry points have been boarded up. A ten foot fence has been bolted and welded to the entirety of the exposed wall on the southern side of the building. A great deal of effective work went into properly sealing this building.

But none of that matters when they don't lock the front door.

Once inside, it is glaringly obvious to my brother and I that a great deal of work is under way. The remaining portion of the roof has been removed and the building is almost completely empty, void of over 90% of the contents that once littered the floor. The only objects left were a mere handful of unlabelled barrels of hazardous chemicals.

I've yet to ascertain from any news source if the contaminated land of the former Formax Factory is still privately owned or or now owned by the city or municipality. Either way, it would appear that the building is being emptied and secured to be prepped for soil testing and hopefully decontamination and eventual reuse, but most likely, demolition is impending.

The future is unknown and details have been hard to come by, but I'll be keeping a close eye on it.

The emptiness inside

The inside emptiness

Emptiness inside the..

Stay tuned.

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*** UPDATE ***

April 13th, 2014

Formax Factory on lock down April 2014

Exactly one week later with some time to kill, I find myself returning to what remains of the old sealed up Formax Factory with Ninja IX and our friend terapr0. The spring thaw and last nights thunderstorm have left the rear portion of the building flooded, making for some interesting reflections. It is only this back room that has not yet been emptied of it's contents and debris.

Flooded with memories

Soak it all in

Quiet on the set

Disconnected from everything

Switchin' gears and hittin' switches

And then we venture into the newly emptied larger portion of the building and immediately notice that braces have been attached to the centre wall. I continue to ponder and await a news report regarding the buildings future, which again, I can only assume is an impending demolition. Maybe one of these days I'll pop by on a weekday and try to run into the crew and get some answers.

Pink fleshy toned knob

An ode to SENOR

SENOR SENOR

Always take time to reflect

Hopefully another update with some information will be coming in the near future.

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*** UPDATE ***

May 13th, 2014

Again, nothing has changed but the weather. With the exception of a new piece by NOMIS.

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Still watching.

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