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  • Writer's pictureSouthJTGrows

Kingsett Capital is Bullying Neighbours Over the Bloor Street Houses Mural

Have you been wondering why work on the Bloor Street houses has halted?

Kingsett Capital is a billion-dollar corporate real estate investment trust that represents itself as having “interactions with each other and all our stakeholders, we always act with humility and integrity”. This company has bought the land at 1423-1437 Bloor Street West where a row of Edwardian houses sits to build an 18-storey condo with no affordable units. These houses accommodated an eclectic mix of small businesses and affordable homes. While all the lower floors of these houses are now vacant and boarded up, a few stalwart residents have remained in their upper-floor apartments.

The tenants have experienced tagging and multiple attempted break-ins because the boards have made the houses look abandoned. These houses were even pictured in a news article about abandoned properties in Toronto. Police have even delayed their response times to calls reporting break-in attempts because they assume these buildings are empty. Tenants have asked repeatedly for windows to not be boarded up and for safety lights. Requests for basic maintenance have also gone ignored, including a request for a mold inspection. One tenant paid for her own mold inspection (surprise: there was significant mold) and finally moved out when a bathtub fell through her ceiling. She has forfeited her right to rental replacement by moving out.

The remaining tenants are tired of the long waits for maintenance requests and constant break-in attempts and tagging. They have tried their best to beautify the properties with lights, plants, and other touches. Finally, as a way of beautifying the property and increasing safety with a “lived-in” look, the tenants approached a volunteer-run community group, South Junction Triangle GROWs to apply for a City of Toronto “Outside Mural and Street Art Grant”. The grant was accepted, the property management company, Triovest, agreed to the mural idea, and the tenants hired a local artist to paint a beautiful mural.

South Junction Triangle Grows is a small but scrappy all-volunteer community group that represents the needs of the developing South JT community. When approached by the tenants of these homes, we were happy to lend our name and support in acquiring the grant money from the city to help them make their homes safer. The group also responded to the community's concerns for the Kingsett building proposed in the place of these houses by appealing the City’s permission for this building by appealing to the OLT. The community gave us two clear mandates:

  1. Support the safety and wellness of tenants by supporting a mural

  2. Appeal the decision to approve the current Kingsett proposal for multiple reasons including safety, lack of transparency in decision-making, and inappropriateness of this building in response to the Provincial Plans for densification in Cities.

A local artist designed the mural and proposed it to the tenants. All agreed with the design and after months of back and forth with Triovest to alter the design (to make it “more cheerful”) work started on the mural on September 18th. For a week, artists worked to complete the mural before the rain and cold of fall set in. After a significant amount of work had been completed, a tenant was surprised to see property management staff painting over the mural (which is incredibly disrespectful, as no one had notified the tenants or South JT Grows of any concerns).

By 28 September 2022, work was stopped on the mural because Trovest asked to see the contract that South JT Grows signed with the City of Toronto. This is odd, but we sent them to Triovest, but we hear no response. We then were told to tell the artist to remove the red flowers from the mural because “they look like blood”, remove the faint outlines of cranes on the mural, and remove the raccoon because of the affiliation with vermin. All of these notes came well after the artist was confirmed to start. By the end of the week, it became clear something was amiss — we heard radio silence from Triovest. South JT Grows followed up with yet another email to which Triovest responds they will contact the group in 24 hours. They did not.

Finally, South JT Grows made a phone call to Triovest who explained that Kingsett wanted to review the mural grant application. The grant application is sent directly from South JT Grows in an effort to expedite this process so the artists can continue their work. 24 hours passed, so members of South JT Grows sent an email directly to the VP of Development Planning at Kingsett letting them know of the weather, and artist timeline, and that the group is available to answer any questions. A Senior VP responded, not to our questions about the mural but instead to ask if South JT Grows is the same group that is appealing their development.

South JT Grows quickly replies with the following:

...The tenants living there are humans who deserve to feel safe and secure in Kingsett's houses — their homes to which they pay rent. They're taking proactive steps, at no cost to Kingsett, with the help of a community group by having applied for mural grant money.

[We’]d hope Kingsett keeps the tenants' livability in these houses separate from the community group's appeal application. Please let us know as to the status of the mural. Thank you.

A Kingsett Senior VP promptly replied with this:

“Thank you for the clarification. Given your appeal and actions we do not think it appropriate, nor do we feel comfortable entering any agreements with your group at this time. We are always willing to discuss a resolution on all matters (both the appeal and mural) that relate to the property as we can only deal with them on a holistic basis. This email is provided on a without prejudice basis as I am sure you can appreciate.”

It seems that Kingsett is reneging on an agreement that would support the tenants' safety and wellness because South JT GROWs is participating in our right to a democratic city planning process. This decision impacted the livelihood of local artists who counted on some extra income.

There is a clear unequal power imbalance between a billion-dollar REIT and residents living in the houses and those volunteering in a community group. Kingsett is using the tenants as pawns over a mural (that costs them NOTHING) to force South JT Grows to drop our legal and democratic right to appeal their development and the city's rezoning approval at the OLT.

This brings you up-to-date…South JT Grows will not give up! We have created a petition for the community to sign supporting the tenants' right to have a mural on their homes. Here is the link to our petition.



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