Danforth condo development sparks controversy—but this time the building’s height isn’t the problem (hint: there’s arson involved)

Danforth condo development sparks controversy—but this time the building’s height isn’t the problem (hint: there’s arson involved)

The alleged arsonists of a Danforth store and the new condo developers are one and the same (Image: Harsha K R)

If you follow Toronto’s real estate beat, you’re probably familiar with the basic life cycle of condo development in the city, so please excuse us if we’re a little unfair to all sides for brevity’s sake. First, a developer proposes constructing something higher than a two-storey home. Then, the community objects to the preposterous height and the city intervenes, proposing a settlement that makes exactly nobody happy. The developer responds by going to the Ontario Municipal Board, which, in turn, gives that same developer everything it wanted in the first place. And—voila—a new condo is born. Given that twisted process, we think it’s safe to say the city’s relationship with tall buildings is pretty darn dysfunctional. But for once there’s a condo tower set to go up that blows all that out of the water. Unfortunately, not exactly in a good way.

The Toronto Star has the story:

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.

Um, what? This story just oozes scandal. Here, we have a moment wherein we wonder how this—and by this we mean allegedly burning down a buildings (read: arson) and still being allowed to redevelop the property—is all legal. Call us a touch crazy but this seems like the kind of scenario that shouldn’t be okay.

Interestingly, sketchy fires that coincidentally demolish properties the owners of those properties are looking to redevelop are starting to become something of a trend in Toronto—don’t forget the curious blaze that burned Salad King to the ground last year—but of course, we hope it’s all just a strange coincidence.

Danforth residents have mixed feelings about condo project with deadly history [Toronto Star]