'A slap in the face': New development forcing small businesses out of Parkdale

A group of entrepreneurs say their businesses are going to take a financial hit because their new landlord is pushing them out without sufficient notice, in order to build a mid-rise apartment building.

Businesses scramble to find affordable new office space while trying to fill holiday orders

Lambos Tsaousidis's company has called the Dufferin Street warehouse home since 2011. He thinks the only way he'll find a comparable studio is by leaving Toronto. ( Mark Bochsler/CBC)

A group of entrepreneurs says their businesses are going to take a financial hit because their new landlord is pushing them out without sufficient notice, in order to build a mid-rise apartment building.

"We knew it was coming but we didn't think it would happen this soon. Three months [notice] is kind of a slap in the face," said Sebastian Paus, owner of Paus Inc., a custom installation and furniture company.  

Paus is one of many small business owners who call the old white warehouse at Queen Street West and Dufferin Street home. It's one of the few remaining industrial spaces in the city where artists, tech startups and small scale manufacturers share a roof.

In mid-November, the tenants of 390-442 Dufferin St. were told they have three months to get out. Like Paus Inc., many of the studios have heavy machinery that requires a few days to move.

The problem: the building only has one functioning loading dock and about 50 businesses need to leave.

The warehouse at Queen Street West and Dufferin Street is home to around 50 small businesses. Next year it will be torn down and eventually replaced by apartments. (CBC )

"It seems like it's just going to be a logistical nightmare to get everything out. I don't see how it's possible," said Lambos Tsaousidi, who owns Canadian Salvaged Timber.

Moving while juggling Christmas orders

According to the eviction notice, companies must be out by Feb. 16, 2018, which means many of them are going to be packing up their offices while juggling Christmas orders.

"We quoted on jobs that were supposed to be done at the end of February, which I can't take anymore," said Paus.

"Even if I find a place, I'm going to be renovating and I'm not going to have an income. But I'm still going to need to pay my people. I'm going to lose my revenue," he said.

For start-up ReDeTec, moving a key piece of machinery in the middle of winter while others are also rushing out seems like an accident waiting to happen.

Dennon Oosterman stands beside the large piece of machinery his company will have to move during the winter. (Mark Bochsler/CBC )

The company's founder, Dennon Oosterman, says it takes a full day and a special moving crew to maneuver the 15-tonne piece of equipment out of the building.

"I don't want someone walking by with other parts and the forklift slips on the ice and someone gets critically injured," said Oosterman.

Petition asks for 6-month grace period

The businesses have sent a petition to their landlord, 390 Dufferin Residences LP. The top request is to extend the three month deadline to six, a timeframe they feel will allow them to find a new office, pack and move out while they continue to work.

Coun. Ana Bailao, who represents the area, has also sent a letter to the owners echoing the tenants' request. As of right now, the company says that's not possible.  

"I certainly recognize that longer would be better but it's in keeping with all the lease agreements that the tenants have signed," said Danny Roth, a spokesperson for 390 Dufferin Residences LP.

A copy of the notice telling tenants they have until Feb. 16, 2018 to move out of the warehouse.

"We think the three months and a one-month rent abatement is the appropriate step at this point."

But Maria Vasileva doesn't think one month's free rent helps. She's one of the founders of Reflektor Digital Inc. and started looking for a new space right when she heard the news.

"We pay about $3,000 for 1,400 square feet," said Vasileva, who has about nine people in her office. "Every space we've seen that's even close to that size is twice as much."

She wonders why tenants weren't warned about the redevelopment plans when the building was purchased by the owners in August.

Maria Vasileva says having her company inside the affordable and central Dufferin Street warehouse has enabled her startup to grow. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)

"We just feel really cheated … It's like they were ensuring their [rental] payments until the end. They could have warned us in August so we could have had more time," said Vasileva.  

According to 390 Dufferin Residences LP. the new building will have 400 rental units and 15,000 square feet of small business incubator space, meant to replace the current warehouse space.

"That's going to take years to be ready and rent is going to be more expensive. Plus, where are we supposed to go until then?" said Tsaousidis.

'We're being pushed out'

Finding a central location is a top of mind. The businesses say the current proximity to their clients has given them an edge.

"All of my designers and architects are downtown," said Tsaousidis. "These people just want to pop in and touch and feel what we make for them."

Toronto's competitive real estate market combined with the short time frame has left all of the businesses thinking they'll end up having to leave the city to find an affordable space.

"It's really disappointing," said Vasileva. "You think we live in this progressive city that wants creative people and startups. But what's it doing to help them? We're being pushed out."


Natalie Nanowski

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Natalie is a storyteller who spent the last few years in Montreal covering everything from politics to corruption and student protests. Now that she’s back in her hometown of Toronto, she is eagerly rediscovering what makes this city tick, and has a personal interest in real estate and environmental journalism. When she’s not reporting you can find her at a yoga studio or exploring Queen St. Contact Natalie: