Lofty Plot Ousts Artists

by Paul Terefenko
NOW Magazine
Aug.21-27 2008


Think back, if you can, to the late 90s. Love Inc. was popular, & the intersection of Bloor & Lansdowne was not. The phrase "studio loft living" could be uttered without eliciting contempt. In fact, many artists & performers were creating live-work spaces in turn-of-the-century warehouses & factories.

That was the case at 221-227 Sterling Road, aka the Sterling Studio Lofts, which extends from Bloor to Dundas. The building, which was once a munitions factory with subterranean rail links to the lake, suited performers who needed the 14- to 25-foot vaulted ceilings to practise.

But nowadays Sterling is a mess of landlord/tenant antagonism, & a mystery is stalking the studios: why is the landlord trying to ignore the building's live-work rezoning & get current tenants to sign commercial leases?

Parkdale Community Legal Clinic lawyer Andrew Pelletier says any developer trying to turn the building into condos would have to deal with the fact that certain rights held by residents would make the project more expensive.

"In order to rebuild it, you would have to accomodate the current residents by building apartment spaces for them, or continuing to rent units to them at a comparable price," he says.

But if someone could make all the the rezoning headaches vanish, life would be a lot easier for the lofts' owner, Firm Capital.

"It's in [their] interest for the building to be considered commercial," explains Pelletier. That would presumably allow the owner to toss current tenants with ease.

Urbancorp (controversial developer of the Abell Lofts) denies it has a finger in any Sterling project. "There's certainly a lot of interest from buyers these days for that type of product," explains John Skalenda, project manager at Urbancorp. "The principles of the company are always looking to move forward & have interest in acquiring new sites," he notes.

Moral of the story: even the coziest symbiotic landlord/tenant arrangement can turn ugly at the first fistful of dollars.

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