TCHC stonewalls on stripped then abandoned space

Interior-77-Lower-JarvisFrank Touby  —

Privacy law is often the last resort of scoundrels and bureaucrats—sometimes they’re one and the same. Thus we citizens who own the commercial property at 77 Lower Jarvis—we city “taxpayers,” as Rob Ford would describe us—are deprived of knowing how much Toronto Community Housing Corp. (TCHC) has lost renting the 4500-square-foot retail space to four corporations.
Privacy law, specifically MFIPPA (Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act), has been cited by the TCHC bureaucracy for refusing to answer questions from The Bulletin regarding certain details such as how much has been lost by non-payments or short-payments of commercial rents.

The Bulletin will be filing a request for information under MFIPPA, which will require TCHC to spill the beans.

A key question that needs elaboration is: What happened to an estimated tens of thousands of dollars worth of fixtures and leasehold improvements made by previous retail tenants?
That estimate comes from knowledgeable observers of the site’s history. According to TCHC’s spokesman, only $5,000 worth of equipment was left on the site and Bicycle Commons was allowed to sell it in exchange for the work of removing it.
The place is stripped to the concrete.
An ongoing embarrassment is how some residents of St. Lawrence Neighbourhood describe what has happened to the property. It is in the Jarvis St. gateway to the neighbourhood and its derelict status speaks poorly of us, some say.
(The rental value of the site has been enhanced by the newly opened Shopper’s Drug Mart across the street beneath a 33-storey, partly finished condo called Market Wharf.)
Since the forced amalgamation of Toronto with the suburbs in 1998, what used to be a tidy, well-run city housing program called Cityhome—a sensible mixture of subsidized and market-rent housing that also included some retail properties—was compelled to merge with the notorious government-slumlord disasters of the former Metro Toronto Housing Authority and the Ontario Housing Corp.
The longest retail tenant at 77 Lower Jarvis was Casa Di Giorgio Ristoranté that had reportedly left an arrears of $300,000. Then followed a couple of years of Golden Griddle, which closed the location and was replaced by a Caribbean roti joint, Ritz, that overgrew a branch into the Ritz Caribbean Restaurant and Sports Bar. That attempt soon failed.
During these operations some valuable items were left on the premises. They included TV sets, professional kitchen equipment, bar equipment and many fixtures that remained.
Those things are what TCHC says was worth a total of $5,000
The latest tenant to abandon the space at 77 Lower Jarvis is called Bicycle Commons and was fronted by Raymond Hobin.
He says he’s a retired architect and has a smooth, convincing way of talking.
He initially told me the project was to have opened last summer, was to have bicycle-related repairs, educational facilities and a high-end coffee bar. He announced that George Brown College was involved as a co-partner. But the college quickly withdrew its name from the venture after reportedly doing the research and finding the project unworkable.
Hobin late last month told me the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) is taking over the project, but found the space too small and needs triple the room for its grand bicycle-related project.
It’s not confirmed at press time whether OCAD is involved with Bicycle Commons in any regard.
But TCHC remains involved with Bicycle Commons, as a spokesman reports: “The Bicycle Commons does have a unit on Blevins Ave. which they have leased. Rent is not being charged because the location is currently inaccessible as a result of the Regent Park revitalization.”