Condo plan could force out Zipperz

38-storey condo proposed for Church/Carlton corner

The owner of the popular gay nightclub Zipperz could be forced to find a new home for it when its lease expires at the end of 2015, as the current owners of the building it sits in are seeking city approval to build a 38-storey condo on the site.

Tribute Communities has submitted an application for a zoning amendment and rental housing demolition in order to build a 38-storey condo tower on the site, which includes 70 and 72 Carlton St, but not the large public parking lot behind the buildings. The tower would sit on a seven-storey podium with retail space at ground level, and it would have 202 parking spaces.

The application still has to make it through several rounds of consultations and approvals. Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam says she wants any new building on the site to have “defining” architecture, as it will serve as a “gateway” to the Village from the south and to the downtown core from the east. She’s already met with the developers to convey what she considers important in a proposal going forward.

“I stressed the importance of community green space and an open forecourt,” Wong-Tam says. “Whatever’s going to be built there has to be iconic. What we’re looking for on Carlton is architecture that can revitalize the neighbourhood.”

Wong-Tam is currently negotiating the addition of a public green space to a condo proposal for 11 Wellesley St W, the former site of the proposed opera house that the province recently sold to a developer for $65 million. But the lot on Carlton Street is unlikely to yield significant new park space.

The developer will likely have to demonstrate some community benefit to mitigate the loss of rental housing to make way for the condo.

But for many in the community, the demolition of Zipperz represents the continuation of a worrying trend of queer hangouts bulldozed to make way for condo towers, and these towers edging closer and closer to the heart of the Village.

The old It nightclub was turned into the Jazz condo project at Church and Shuter streets. The site of the old Five nightclub is being turned into a 45-storey tower called Five. And a condo has been proposed for the site of fly nightclub and Fire on the East Side.

Last year, neighbourhood residents successfully fought back against a proposal to build a massive condo tower at Church and Gloucester streets, which would have booted the pubs from that block.

For now, Zipperz owner Harry Singh says he’s not worried about the proposal.

“It doesn’t affect me until the end of 2015,” he says. “What else am I going to say? The place is sold. My lease is up.”


Singh says he hasn’t thought as far ahead as moving to a new location, which could be difficult, given the city’s prohibition on venues with dancefloors north of Queen Street.

But Wong-Tam says she would be supportive of helping Zipperz get an approval for a new location in the Village if that’s what Singh wants.

“We would certainly work with all business owners. I’m mindful that there are moratoriums on nightclubs, but I’m mindful that there’s a vibrant nightlife on Church Street,” she says. “I’ve yet to visit a gay neighbourhood anywhere in the world that doesn’t have a dynamic nightlife. We’d try to strike that right balance.”

Rob Salerno is a playwright and journalist whose writing has appeared in such publications as Vice, Advocate, NOW and OutTraveler.

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Power, News, Toronto

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