A condo developer has knocked down a Queen Mary Road building prized for its multicultural character, taking people opposed to the project by surprise.
Christina Yotis, whose Greek restaurant Rodos was a fixture on the block for 30 years, was tipped off about the wrecking ball by a customer.
"Monday morning, nine o’clock, I was still sleeping, and I received a call from one of my customers that they demolished my restaurant," Yotis, who ran the restaurant with her husband, said Tuesday in front of the ruins.
"I ran up — didn’t even wash myself — and came here. And my restaurant was destroyed."
Allprime Property Inc., the developer, got permission in August to destroy the building at 4963-5019 Queen Mary and says it did nothing illegal pulling the structure down this week.
Trying to protect diversity
Businesses and others, under the leadership of a group called the Snowdon Committee, fought the demolition, saying the diversity of the neighborhood near the Snowdon Metro station was at stake.
Even if resigned to losing the building, the surprise demolition saddened people walking by the remains.
'It’s all my life in here. It’s my baby.' — Christina Yotis, owner of the just-demolished Rodos restaurant
"How can they destroy it with all her things still inside, the fridges, the tables, even her purse?" asked Galina Scobiola, who used to run a small Russian restaurant next to Rodos and could barely look at the rubble Tuesday.
"We’ve been eating with this lady for over 10 years," a former customer said. "The food is great, you know. She’s really nice to the community."
The building had been home to a variety of independent ethnic restaurants, the last two holdouts being Rodos and Ermitage. A Subway sandwich outlet was also among the offerings and will be resurrected in the condo project.
The municipal committee that approved the demolition told opponents at the time that it had photographic evidence the building was unhealthy and in a state of near-collapse.
The Snowdon Committee, which gathered hundreds of names on a petition to try to save the building, said any deterioration occurred after businesses were evicted and several moved out.
Yotis was the last to leave, and her story was instrumental in the creation of the Snowdon Committee, a citizens group that advocates putting small businesses ahead of large, corporate interests.
"It’s all my life in here," Yotis said. "It’s my baby."
Still, she's trying to stay positive.
"You know what? It makes me stronger. With my family, we are like this, like one. It gives me good that I have my husband and my two children with me."