After more than 60 years in south Etobicoke, the Mr. Christie Bakery has been slated for closure next year – impacting 550 workers.
On Thursday, Nov. 1, Mondelez Canada announced its intention to close the 625,000-square-foot biscuit manufacturing facility, located on 27 acres at Park Lawn Road and Lake Shore Boulevard West, in the third quarter of 2013. The bakery has produced a variety of cookies and crackers since 1948.
The decision to close down shop in Etobicoke will affect about 550 Mondelez employees, who were informed of the company’s plans on Thursday.
Alvaro Cuba, vice-president of operations for Mondelez Canada, said the company’s focus is those employees at this time.
“We’re making this announcement almost a year in advance of the planned closure to help provide a smooth transition,” he said in a statement.
“We’re committed to treating our people fairly and working with them through this difficult time.”
A portion of the Lakeshore bakery’s production is expected to be moved to Mondelez Canada’s bakeries in East York and Montreal, while the remainder will be split between other North American biscuit manufacturing facilities and co-manufacturers.
While local councillors expressed their wish that some of Mondelez’s employees be shifted to those plants along with production, Stephanie Cass, manager of corporate affairs for Mondelez Canada, said the company “doesn’t anticipate any additional jobs at East York” and it is still evaluating the situation at the Montreal plant.
The decision to close the factory, Cass said, was strictly a business decision based on three “critical factors”: the facility’s aging infrastructure; its underutilized manufacturing capacity; and the residential development surrounding the area.
Added Cuba: “While this was an appropriate location for a large bakery when it was first built, the significant residential development surrounding it has led to operating constraints that will become increasingly difficult with the further residential expansion that is underway.”
The question of whether or not the 27-acre Mr. Christie site will be rezoned and redeveloped to add to that residential expansion is one that weighs heavily on many in the community – including Etobicoke-Lakeshore councillors Peter Milczyn and Mark Grimes, in whose ward the bakery resides.
Mondelez Canada has applied for an Official Plan Review of the site, calling for an in-depth study exploring the different economic development and job opportunity scenarios for the site.
Although that report makes reference to the potential for 27 condo towers on the site, Cass said it does so only as an initial design concept “as an example of what could be accommodated, given how significant a site this is.”
“The report does not recommend or propose any specific development,” she reiterated. “Our decision (to close the plant) was based on the current business situation, not future use of the land.”
Regardless, both Milczyn and Grimes have issued statements expressing their wish that the site be retained as employment lands.
Grimes said he was “deeply disappointed” at the news of the bakery’s impending closure.
“The plant has been a south Etobicoke fixture for 64 years, employing many friends and neighbours in the Etobicoke Lakeshore community,” he said.
“While this comes as a deep loss to the community, I am committed to doing whatever it takes to keep high-quality jobs and high-quality employers in the south Etobicoke community.”
Milczyn likewise said he’ll be advocating that the bakery lands be reserved for employment purposes.
“At this point in time, the city is not prepared to entertain a massive re-development at that property,” he said.