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Episode 8: R.A.I.D

I am fascinated by derelict buildings...especially ones in expensive, downtown areas. Who abandons millions of dollars in potential rent for decades?! I lived opposite such a lot in New York's East Village when rental prices were skyrocketing. I couldn't understand why or how this lucrative property was abandoned; but it gave me an unobstructed view of the downtown skyline, had a sprawling tree and attracted lots of birds so I was like

It has since been developed into a gorgeous building with floor to ceiling windows (before and after pics below).

(Side note: did you know you can look at historical google map images dating back to 2007? You can look at your house from 14 years ago! In early pandemic days, my son and I would go around the world, looking at 2007 images of places we knew or had heard of.)

Back to Abandoned Lots and Properties

Like I was saying, I'm a nerd for curiously abandoned lots and there are a few in Toronto that have captivated me over the years. Allow me to share my top 3 strangest multi million dollar abandoned buildings.

The 3 Most Curious $$Multi Million$$ Deserted Buildings in Toronto

To skip to #1 (the topic of the show) scroll till you see a picture of this guy.

This is Ramón Pérez and he had the guts to rent a space that had been deserted for decades. Or had it?!

Oh, and this is my first episode with a dead body in it! I'm finally a Real Podcast!

#3 Most Curious Dilapidated $Multi-Million$ Building in Toronto:

Sure, there are probably more dilapidated buildings in Toronto but I'd argue there are none quite so smack dab in the middle of opulence as 897 Queen Street West. Right beside the Trinity Park Lofts...their website image cracks me up...where the average price per square foot is $1200. Average price, people. And a view of the park?!!? What is happening here?! This building has been rotting like this for decades! Check out the rusty aluminum siding just bolted into place. It's a racoon hotel!

Someone cleaned up the graffiti in the 2010's which gives me a hoot..."Let's make this hovel look presentable! Now where is that rusty old aluminum siding?"

Rent is not the only way to make money off a building...since the 1990's cities across North America have incentivized commercial building owners TO KEEP THEIR STOREFRONTS EMPTY! Ramón and I get into the Vacant Storefront Tax Incentive in the R.A.I.D episode.

Number 2 Most Curious Multi Million Dollar Deserted Building (lots of juicy details!!)

471 Bloor Street W. is a building with a storied history. From 1972 till the 1980's it was The Hungarian Castle, a medieval/Transylvanian style eatery/ballroom. In the 80's it was abandoned...and it was left for so long that numerous rumours whirled around, including one that the owner, Annie Racz, was a bag lady who had lost both her legs! For a while people wondered if she even existed! We do know that when she died in 2004 she left behind millions and millions of dollars in commercial real estate.

Before she died, a number of businesses tried to rent the infamously deserted building from her but she had an impossible condition: If they wanted the space, they had to incorporate the old medieval/Transylvanian decor into their store design. The place hadn't even been cleaned after it served it's last meal...20 years prior! I'm going to let Jamie Bradburn's Tales of Toronto take over this part of the story:

When the owner of BMV books, Peter Hempelmann, purchased the building in 2005, "he found its interior resembled a horror-movie set. Liquor bottles still lined the bar and tables were set for dining. Pots were left on the stove and dishwashers were filled with plates. Grand pianos and raccoon corpses had rotted. The bakery was buried in four feet of water. It took three months, a crew of workers wearing ventilation masks, and 40 large dumpsters to clean the place out. Despite the decay, Hempelmann was relieved when the building was found to be structurally sound." You can read the whole article here for lots more juicy details.

Number 1 Most Curious Multi Million Dollar Deserted Building (and the subject of our show)

1720 Queen Street West

I have driven past and wondered about this place for over a decade. Clearly, it is NOT currently a nightclub. In fact, according to public record, the "CORONA RESTAURANT AND NIGHTCLUB" closed prior to 2007. So why is the awning still up? And what has been going on in there for the past 15 years?!?

As It turns out, there was in fact a business operating in this place but you will

never guess what it was. I was shocked to discover what had really been going on behind that papered up garage door.

Every Building Needs A Patron Saint

Ramón Pérez is not a retailer. He is an illustrator...a cartoonist! He has worked for Marvel Comics on Captain America, The Amazing Spider-Man, Deadpool, and X-Men. In 2018, he decided to rent this dilapidated, seemingly deserted building...The Corona Restaurant and Nightclub...and turn it into a space for the artists collective R.A.I.D.

Ramón is an entrepreneur and an

artist with an "if you build it" vision:

  1. Build a space for artists to create.

  2. Lure people in off the street with Argentinian food and drink.

  3. Connect those people to the art created in the back.

  4. Throw amazing parties to celebrate artists work.

He breaks down for us how he got involved with the collective in the first place and what his vision for this space is in the future. Who is Ramon Perez and what is R.A.I.D.? Let's go inside and find out. Listen HERE now.

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