Condo development upsets 'Restaurant Row'

After it was announced that the strip would lose one of its beloved theatres to make way for the proposed Gehry-Mirvish project, restaurateurs are now battling to save several local eateries on “Restaurant Row” that face destruction or disruption if a proposal for a 47-storey, 604-unit condo development moves ahead.

The first proposal at 323-333 King St. W was rejected, but after acquiring neighbouring 321 King St. W, developer King Financial Holdings resubmitted the proposal to a more positive reception. Restaurant owners are concerned about the structure’s impact on the neighbouring buildings, citing things such as wind tunnels and blocked sunlight. For Al Carbone, owner of Kit Kat, the ramifications of the development stems deeper than that.

“The entertainment district started with restaurant row, and it’s a place for everyone to go to,” he says. “If you pull out restaurants there you’re removing not just infrastructure, but you’re altering heritage, and that’s not right. That strip was the only block that was historically intact.”

The Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association have stepped in to help business owners such as Carbone fight the development.

Many critics of the condo market warn investors that buildings sprouting up in the wrong places will drive tenants away from, not through, the front doors.

“The proposal could fundamentally alter the character of this main street area, and could affect the qualities that make it a destination for residents and tourists to the city, particularly if it creates poor pedestrian conditions through its streetscape and wind impacts,” warns senior city planner Danny Nicholson.

With investors backing away from new condo purchases, many worry that destroying amenities and entertainment hotspots that brought tenants into the area in the first place will hinder the current market, not help it.

Have your say – should the city say “No” to Condos on Restaurant Row?

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