Toronto is expropriating businesses to expand overloaded Bloor-Yonge station
The city's plan will extend both platforms for Line 1's Bloor Station and construct a new second platform for eastbound Line 2 trains using Yonge Station below.
Expanding the station has been a goal of the city for years now, with major milestones including the federal government announcing priority funding and setting aside a half-billion dollars in 2019, expected to be matched by the municipal and provincial governments to cover the estimated $1.5 billion project costs.
But the price of the Bloor-Yonge Capacity Improvement project won't just be cheques signed by governments, as the station's expansion will require existing surface-level businesses to be displaced to make way for a new entrance, emergency exit, and electrical substation facility.
Last year, Toronto city council authorized the start of expropriation proceedings for a group of properties at 81 Bloor Street East and 40/42 Hayden Street. These addresses include current businesses Firkin on Bloor and Sabai Sabai on Bloor Street, and Onnki Donburi on Hayden Street.
After owners were given a 30-day window with the option to challenge the expropriation — council received no requests for inquiry during this time — the process took another step forward in the final days of 2021 when a city report was filed outlining its second stage.
During this stage, the city will offer owners compensation based on reports appraising the properties' market values, though this only applies to landlords and not the businesses within these buildings.
Among the businesses being displaced, Firkin on Bloor has been a presence on Bloor Street East since 2015, previously home to The Spotted Dick.
Owner of both the current and previous pubs, Larry Isaacs, President of The Firkin Group of Pubs, tells blogTO that the end is near for his establishment, saying, "we've received notification from the city that the expropriation is happening in the first quarter of 2022."
It's not good news for the Firkin; Isaacs says the impending expropriation is "obviously a blow to our company," continuing, "we don't like to lose locations, and being shut down by the government for two years has been tough for us to maintain all of our locations, so to have this location swept underneath us for something else is frustrating."
Even with closures fast approaching, business owners are still wondering what will be done for them, Isaacs noting that "we have not yet been notified how compensation is going to work."
Isaacs says all of the positive changes happening in the area that would have brought new business to his pub, like the incoming W Hotel across the street, remarking that "we're hoping the landlord takes that into consideration when they do the math, but we have not received any numbers or have a closure date to announce."
The pub is still under a multi-year lease, though with expropriation on the doorstep and a timeline for a return to normal business conditions unclear, Isaacs doesn't have any immediate plans to seek out new real estate in the neighbourhood, saying "growth today in our industry is very complicated," and noting that office workers make up a fair share of pub patrons.
Work on the station improvement project is scheduled to commence in 2024.
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