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New development plans could demolish row of restaurants in Toronto’s Little Tokyo

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New development plans could demolish row of restaurants in Toronto’s Little Tokyo
WATCH: It's a familiar refrain now heard in the city: developers moving in with big condo development plans, pushing out smaller mom and pop businesses in the process. Now, another neighbourhood within the city's Dundas and University area is facing the threat of elimination. Kayla McLean reports – Nov 9, 2022

A new condo development application is sparking concern among many in a downtown corner known colloquially as Toronto’s Little Tokyo, a row of predominantly Asian restaurants that could soon be eaten away.

“You need development, I think, for sure, especially in a growing city like Toronto, but I don’t like the idea of losing the character of the neighbourhood,” said Simon Grydziuzko, a patron of one of the restaurants near University Avenue and Dundas Street West.

Mark Sergio, another patron, shares his sentiment.

“There’s a poke bowl over there behind you, there’s a pho place, they have a lot of good places around here,” Sergio told Global News one afternoon.

“I’m enjoying it, so, like, why tear this place down?”

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The threat he’s referring to is a new condo development application, now before the city, with a proposal to build a 41-storey mixed-use tower that would house 19 floors of office space, 21 levels of condo units and new retail at the street level.

But to make way for the tower, several units along Dundas Street West would need to be razed, leaving restaurants like Yang Tea Shop and Sushi & Bento on the chopping block.

“I think adding residential and office space is a good thing, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of the local businesses,” said another Little Tokyo patron, Michelle German.

With city staff now reviewing the development application — a process that usually takes a few years –businesses along the stretch won’t have to worry about packing up and leaving any time soon. But that’s little consolation for some business owners.

“If that happened, it would be very hard for us,” says Syed Rahman, store manager and co-owner of Indian Biriyani House at 181 Dundas St. W.

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After 15 years on this strip, Rahman says he can’t begin to fathom losing his restaurant — his second home — so soon after nearly losing it to the pandemic.

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“We have so many loans from the bank and from the government. We hope that they will not approve this thing because we are a small business,” said Rahman.

“We are 10 people working here and everybody benefits from (working) here. I don’t know what will happen to us in the future.”

Global News reached out to the developers behind the plan for comment, but did not hear back before deadline. The renderings show the design concept of the 41-storey building, done by Scott Shields Architects.

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Rendering of 41-storey mixed building, planned for University Ave and Dundas St. W. Credit: Scott Shields Architects

“I would hope that the developer would work with the BIA and the community to create new spaces for them because they are part of the neighbourhood, they are why we come here,” said German.

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Grydziuzko shares the same concerns.

“It shouldn’t be just bulldoze them and nothing comes here, or an LCBO — those big anchor tenants,” said Grydziuzko.

“Get mom-and-pop shops that are trying to survive and really make this an actual community and not just some sort of concrete jungle.”

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