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Vacant buildings in Toronto’s Cabbagetown raising concern among residents

WATCH ABOVE: City officials are looking into whether any bylaws are being broken with regard to vacant buildings in Toronto’s Cabbagetown. Local residents are up in arms about the buildings, which they say attract a negative perception. Peter Kim reports.

TORONTO – Buildings littered with debris and left unattended have forced area residents and business owners to ask City Hall to act.

“This puts a dark black eye on the neighbourhood,” said Carol Buss, owner of Lennies Whole Foods and a member of the local business improvement area.

“Abandoned buildings [attract] the criminal element. And that’s what we’ve been trying to fight for years,” she said.
456 Parliament Street
456 Parliament Street

According to Mark Sraga, the city of Toronto’s director of investigative services, two bylaws can apply in this situation.

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“Both bylaws have the same criteria which is that properties must be maintained appearance wise as well as secured against unlawful entry, which means if the windows and doors aren’t lockable, they should board them and secure them,” he said.

There is also a bylaw pertaining to garbage and debris that could net a fine of up to $5,000, but there isn’t a limit as to how long a building can remain vacant if it is well maintained.

Business owners near 456 Parliament St. say the building has been vacant for five years after a fire gutted the interior.

“It’s slowly being renovated, at a snails pace as you can see,” said Duncan Hammond, owner of House on Parliament. “We see a couple of guys work for a few days, and on the weekend, and then we don’t see anything for a month or so.”

READ MORE: Building a city that will last: mixed use development in Toronto

Global News reached one of three owners of the property who said differences in opinion between the group about the type of businesses they want to allow in have stalled development.

Residents say there are at least three abandoned or chronically vacant buildings in the area. But Cabbagetown as a whole is still welcoming and “open for business.”

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“The biggest thing is that if there were businesses in there, it would probably improve business for us with more traffic on the street,” said Kim Alke, owner of Spruce.

Councillor Pam McConnell, the councillor for the area, and her staff are looking into properties like these to ensure they are adhering to local bylaws.

The city is also looking at introducing new rules that would allow them to step in and clean up and maintain buildings that are being left chronically neglected at the expense of the owners.

The most extreme intervention would be a complete demolition.