Residents of a century-old historic building in Toronto are fed up with their neighbours vomiting, tossing bottles, bones, and cigarette butts onto their balconies.
Pleas to the city to intervene have been unable to stop the problem, which has persisted for more than two years.
The Graphic Arts building, with its tall, Ionic columns at Richmond and Bay Streets, is 107 years old and has a rich history. It was home to newspaper-turned-magazine Saturday Night Press and a graphic arts company. The Group of Seven artists worked in the space.
The five-storey building was eventually converted into a mix of office space and condos.
Abutting it is a building offering a stark contrast — a 54-storey condo tower completed three years ago at 70 Temperance St. It hangs over the roof of the Graphic Arts building.
Since the start of construction of the taller building, the property manager at Graphic Arts started experiencing problems.
“A hammer fell right through a skylight and ended up on someone’s desk,” said Michael Kalisperas, who owns Royale Grande Property Management. Luckily, no one was home at the time, he said.
The problems didn’t stop when the construction was completed.
Kalisperas says some residents with units overlooking the Graphic Arts roof started throwing their cigarette butts and garbage over their balconies.
“We’re worried. This building is partly wood. It’s combustible,” he said.
A walk-through following a cleanup effort revealed chicken bones, socks, cushions, beer bottles and hundreds of cigarette butts littered throughout the pebbled roof.
“It’s irreparable harm to our building.”
Cleaning up vomit
The penthouse units in the newly constructed fifth floor of the building have large terraces, but some residents are wary of any number of items falling from above if they step out.
“It’s a beautiful building, but it’s a shame,” says owner Richard Blundell.
He has even had to clean up vomit that landed on his terrace. “It’s disgusting. This is an extension of my home. I want to enjoy this space.”
Kalisperas and Blundell tried calling the city and working with the previous property managers, who have since moved on, at the tower, but say enforcement is next to impossible. The new property management company, FirstService Residential, did not want to provide a statement or do an interview.
“I’ve lost faith,” says Blundell. “I shouldn’t have to keep knocking on the door saying, ‘Hey, someone else threw a cigarette on my terrace.”‘
Kalisperas thinks the building should never have been approved in the first place.
“Going forward with all the growth downtown, it’s a liability,” he said.
He is considering cameras, but is doubtful it could catch someone dozens of storeys up.
CBC reached out to the City of Toronto’s planning department about how it approved the building. It is checking records. The municipal licensing and standards department confirms people throwing their garbage off their balconies are illegally dumping. To be fined the $365, you have to be caught.
Condo lawyer Danielle Swartz has another suggestion.
“You’re really depending on the owners to be the eyes and ears of what’s going on.”
Swartz says the issues the Graphic Arts building face could result in civil lawsuits, or a criminal investigation if someone is injured.
“If you have a large building next to a small building and are in such close proximity and people are throwing bottles off … it’s a really big safety issue.”