Recently, the real estate firm Graywood Group has begun exploring potential development opportunities at 506-516 Church Street, currently occupied by the adjacent surface parking lot and the popular local businesses, Boutique Bar and Crews and Tangos.
In light of the unprecedented intensification in the designated growth areas including the downtown core, and along church street specifically, I know residents and patrons are rightly concerned about potentially losing LGBTQ2S+ spaces.
While the development process is still in its very early stage - what City Planning and I know is that the owners are looking to build a mid-rise, infill with mixed-use residential units with ground-floor retail. Under the planning act, as with all rezoning applications, there will be ongoing community consultation. As soon a date and venue for the consultation are secured, I will post updates.
In the meantime, I have confirmed that the landlord and tenants, including Crews & Tangos, are working together and have agreed to a two-year lease extension so that businesses can continue to operate during the planning stage.
As the only openly gay Toronto City Councillor and as someone who previously owned a small business in the Church Wellesley Village, I know personally how important safe, culturally significant small LGBTQ2S+ businesses are as gathering spaces for our community.
With the support of local stakeholders, such as the Church Wellesley Village BIA and the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association, I am working hard to protect the character of the Village in light of numerous Ontario Municipal Board approvals that have overturned City Council decisions.
We know that similar to small- and medium-sized daytime businesses, Toronto's nighttime cultural and music businesses are under threat from a lack of affordable space when their current space becomes slated for development.
In the preceding years, I have passed several motions directing staff to reform tax policy to provide relief to small business owners facing unsustainable Current Value Assessment-related tax increases. In 2019 City Council moved to seek advice from nightlife and creative sector for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises, do-it-yourself event organizers, and equity-seeking groups such as youth, women and LGBTQ2S on best practices to enhance inclusive social culture across Toronto.
Most recently, on January 29, 2020, Toronto City Council adopted my motion to support the retention and growth of independently owned and operated LGBTQ2S+ small businesses & cultural spaces.
The report on this motion will be presented at the May 6, 2020 meeting of the Economic and Community Development Committee. I would encourage everyone who is concerned about losing LGBTQ2S+ small businesses and cultural spaces to sign my petition and depute at the committee to show your support for Canada’s largest and most dynamic gay village.
When we come together, we can do great things.