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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Toronto Ruins

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(Photo courtesy of Bob Krawczyk)

The Toronto Star reported two days ago that the James Chalmers Building located at 6 Howard Street has collapsed. This building is part of a notorious and curious collection of buildings right around Howard and Glen Road — at the top of St. James Town, where the east exit of Sherbourne station lets out — that are boarded and bricked up, seemingly forever. Though designated a heritage property (built in 1915), the city seems unable to ensure the buildings are reasonably kept up, leading to, as next-door resident Larry Clydesdale told the Star, “demolition through neglect” — if they can’t tear them down to build something new, the owner will let it rot. That seems to be the main reason these buildings remain some of the only “Toronto Ruins” we have.

Apart from losing the kind of building I wish Toronto had hundreds more of, the collapse forced low-income residents next door out of their home onto the streets. Moti Sawh, representative of the Markham-based management company that “runs” The Chalmers Building seems like a reasonable person. From the Star:

Sawh, meanwhile, dismissed the tenant’s displacement, saying, “A lot of people are homeless in Toronto.”

“If a property has outlived its usefulness,” he added, “it needs to be knocked down — nothing lasts forever.”

Sometimes buildings don’t fall on the right people.

Certainly most absentee landlords are not the kind of archetypal slumlord Moti Sawh appears to be (it’s like he’s reciting lines from Rent), but it would be interesting to map out who owns the city, and where they actually live.