Local business association not happy with blacked-out storefronts

The community near Yonge and Lawrence in Toronto finds itself living amidst an unexpected eyesore, as a row of former small businesses, now vacant and awaiting development, have been painted over in black. 

This choice by a development company preparing to demolish the buildings in preparation for a condo development has raised concerns, especially amongst local business owners. The stretch of storefronts, awaiting the initiation of a condo project, has been painted black for months.

“We were extremely — a word that somebody was using is ‘disrespected’ that they went ahead and did this, and it’s obviously ugly. Anybody who would think otherwise is fooling themselves,” said Bev Don, the treasurer and former president of the Yonge-Lawrence BIA.

The decision to use black paint has raised ire within the community. Although the development company has remained steadfast in its decision, according to a local news story, citing the imminent demolition and redevelopment plans, locals such as Don expressed discontent with the lack of consideration for the neighborhood’s current state. 

“They could have come to the BIA and asked us if we have a preference for a colour — it’s paint,” she said. “It would have cost them nothing more to have painted a colour that we could agree upon. And black would not have been it.”

As the holiday season unfolded in December, the black-painted storefronts may have posed a unique challenge to the area’s retail landscape. The choice of colour had the potential to deter foot traffic, affecting retail sales during a crucial time for businesses. 

“To think that this individual and his company think it’s OK to do this to our streetscape, I mean, it’s like abandoned buildings,” Don said. “It can’t not affect the businesses.”

According to local media reports, the development company has said it is temporary and that it will not change the paint, the potential repercussions on local businesses during the holiday season are real.

The development in question, with the municipal address of 3180–3202 Yonge St., is for an 11-storey mixed-use condominium building, which stretches a city block between Bedford Park and Woburn Avenue, just north of Lawrence.

The 109 residential units that make up the development will consist of 15 one-bedrooms with dens, 38 two-bedrooms, 44 two-bedrooms with dens and 12 three-bedrooms, and there will be 91 parking spots within two storeys of underground parking, plus 83 bicycle spots.

The blackened storefronts serve as a visual reminder of the ongoing transformations in urban spaces, where the decisions of developers can have immediate and tangible effects on the experiences of residents and the vitality of local commerce. 

“We know how much money we put into streetscape, and to have this company do this was just awful,” said Don, who said the BIA will again make an appeal to the developer and local councillors to try to change what has happened.