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Tag Archives: danforth ave

Danforth residents have mixed feelings about condo project with deadly history

Allison Cross – Toronto Star

The neighbours call it the big hole: An empty, weed-ridden plot of land with a torrid history that sits on the Danforth Ave. near Woodbine Ave.

A massive fire in 2001, one of the biggest in Toronto’s history, destroyed Woodbine Building Supply, the empty lot’s former occupant. One arsonist died in the fire and another was seriously injured.

John Magno, 53, one of three brothers who co-owned the store, has been charged with second-degree murder, accused of hiring others to organize the blaze. On Monday, the jury began its deliberations.

During the trial the prosecution alleged Magno did it for the insurance money. But there’s another twist: The brothers also own JFC Properties, the company behind a bid to build new condos in the big hole. Before the fire, the brothers had made plans to demolish the store and build condos on the lot.

No matter what happens in the court case, construction on a 12-storey housing development, called Carmelina Condominiums, is expected to start in the next few months.

It should be a time for optimism — something new rising from the ashes in a neighbourhood that could use a little revitalization. Instead, some residents can’t shake the memory of that tragic Christmas Eve when more than 50 nearby homes were evacuated.

Magno is also charged with conspiracy to commit arson, arson causing bodily harm and arson fraud.

None of these allegations has been proven in court.

Behind the scenes, the surrounding community hasn’t had an easy time striking a balance between respecting the lot’s painful history and embracing economic growth in the neighbourhood.

“The loss of life looms over the whole thing,” said Eric Nordholt, who co-owns the Better Bulk just down the street from the vacant lot.

“We’re looking forward to the potential for added vitality along this stretch (of the Danforth),” he said. “I’m excited for the betterment of the neighbourhood (but) I also understand the concerns people have.”

The blaze that took down the original building caused $4 million in damage and took two days to extinguish.

Across the street from the empty lot, now boarded up and plastered with advertisements for Carmelina Condos, a sleek sales centre has a model condo building on display and condo floor plans for prospective buyers to peruse.

The condo development will include street-level retail spaces and has been touted as a way to increase foot traffic for local businesses.

“While there are some signs things are happening, gentrification has been quite slow to come to Danforth East, and many folks are hoping the condo will give the area a boost,” said resident John Schofield.

There has also been tension over whether a 12-storey building would fit in among homes and commercial properties that are mostly two to three storeys high.

“I still think the height of the condo is out of keeping with the character of Danforth East,” said Schofield, who lives a few blocks away from the site. “It will really tower over the neighbouring buildings.”

Even so, many residents are sick of seeing the big hole on the street and have subsequently put aside reservations they had about the project, he said.

“It’s an unusually big parcel of land. It’s a real blight on the streetscape and on the neighbourhood,” said Natasha Granatstein, co-chair of the Danforth East Community Association.

“I think that people universally dislike the big hole on the Danforth,” she said. “I think people are definitely happy to see something happening there.”

Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
They did not write these articles, they just reproduce them here for people
who are interested in Toronto real estate. They do not work for any builders.