Residents fight to save ‘three queer spaces’ from condo development

A petition to save the popular Crews & Tangos on Church Street from making way for a condo development is continuing to gain strength despite the bar recently being able to sign a two-year lease.

Real estate developer Graywood Group, owners of the property running from 506 to 516 Church St. in Toronto’s gay village, has been considering the area for a mixed use retail and residential development.

As of today, the petition titled “STOP Crews & Tangos from becoming a condo” has collected more than 30,000 signatures, close to its goal of 35,000 names.

The petition addressed to Mayor John Tory and three others says the gay village has lost many bars and clubs to condos over the years. “These condos are taking over our queer spaces,” the petition’s preamble states. “This condo will not only take Crews & Tangos but will take out another gay bar ‘Boutique’ with it. That, and also a space for our stages during Pride Toronto. Three queer spaces taken, for one condo!”

Opposition to the development can be found on the street as well as online.

“They’re taking away what we want and love and giving us a problem,” said community resident Charlie Sookram, 43, interviewed in the area. “I’m urging my family, friends relatives, as well as people on the streets to sign the petition, so we save Crews & Tangos.”

In a statement, a Graywood Group representative said the condo development is in the early stages and the Crews & Tangos recently extended its lease for two years.

The issue will continue to engage local residents, said Robert Packham, chair of the development committee of the Church and Wellesley Neighbourhood Association.

“The developmental company has recently signed a two-year lease with the owners of Crews & Tangos and I understand how important the bar is to some people,” Packham said. “It’s definitely an issue that will be brought up a lot in the coming years.”

The association is tracking numerous developments in the area and has an interactive map online showing the active cases.

The community has remained cautious about developers, especially since a back-and-forth struggle with One Properties, which proposed a 43-storey tower at Church and Wellesley in 2017. That development was eventually rejected.