Kensington’s indie shop owners versus the big bad capitalists: a blow-by-blow breakdown
There’s a gentrification war brewing in the market. On one side are the landlords, many represented by commercial real estate agent Phil Pick, who’s been encouraging his clients to jack up rents. On the other are the indie cheese, fish and coffee vendors who, in the name of preserving the market’s boho mojo, seem to expect bargain rents for eternity. The biggest battle of all—a proposed Walmart—looms. Here, a chronology of an intensifying counter-insurgency, plus an assessment of each stunt.
Pick riles up Kensingtonians by trying to lure Starbucks—the ultimate mega-chain—to the neighbourhood in 2008.
Protestors wrap the Starbucks site in toilet paper to scare off prospective retailers.
Locals begin to recognize Pick and take to flipping him the finger when he’s in the market. Some enter his showings and get in his face to express their dissatisfaction.
Pick encourages a landlord to boost the rent of Casa Acoreana, a bulk food fixture of the market since 1965, from $2,400 per month to $6,500. They eventually settle on $4,000.
Marker-toting pranksters insert an R into Pick’s last name (guess where) on his numerous real estate signs throughout the market.
At new fancy fishmonger Hooked, Pick encourages a dramatic rent hike from the $1,200 per month paid by the previous tenants. The proprietors negotiate and settle on approximately $2,400.
Posters with Pick’s name and face reading “Wanted: Phil Pick for Killing Kensington Market” start popping up around the neighbourhood. Another poster shows Pick with a clown nose and the tag line “The Face of Greed.”
He encourages the landlord at Salamanca, a Peruvian grocery store, to jack the rent from $1,100 per month to $2,500.
RioCan wants to bring a Walmart to the Kromer Radio building on the market’s southwest border. In July, council passed a motion to halt development on the site for one year pending a feasibility study (the developer has gone to the Ontario Municipal Board to challenge the temporary freeze). The most incendiary battle is delayed, but not yet won.