Graffiti, gentrification and Toronto's lofty condo names

Emma Teitel weighs in on the inflated monikers


I live in a rapidly gentrifying downtown Toronto neighbourhood, where the homeless sleep outside condo presentation centres, not because they are particularly cozy, but because there is almost literally no where else to go. Walking to my bus stop recently, I noticed someone had spray painted “Die Yuppie Scum,” onto the garish presentation centres and condo construction sites lining Queen Street West. Almost all of the graffiti was signed “A.”

I am not actively opposed to my city’s morphing skyline. The fact that I assumed “A” was a reference to the ABC Family series, Pretty Little Liars (I have since learned it is the official symbol of Anarchy) reveals the extent of my experience with Toronto’s anti-establishment. That’s not to say, however, that I don’t sympathize with its cause.

The truth is that the condos in Toronto are all but begging to be defaced, not because of the way they look—not even because of their complicity in the expensiveness of everything around them—but simply because of what they are called: Bohemian Embassy, One Valhalla, Quantum 2, Chaz, Epic, Mozo, Dragon, Origami, ART, Nero, and the space that could launch a thousand yurts: Yonge + Rich (conveniently located at Yonge and Richmond). Bruce Freeman, the executive vice president of Great Gulf homes—the company developing the proposed 50-storey building—has assured me that there is nothing unbecoming about the condo’s name: “We thought, internally, it meant young at heart and rich in possibilities.” Externally? He didn’t say, but I’m guessing, under 40 with a 401K.

This bout of anti-condo graffiti comes at an opportune time for Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who announced this week that he is “obsessed with getting graffiti out of the city and keeping it out of the city.” I hope this obsession, like some of his others, is prematurely squelched. I like the graffiti in my neighbourhood and the crass rebranding of condo presentation centres. It won’t uproot the billion Toronto condos under construction or raze the ones already here (which is good, because I live in one). And it won’t save Honest Ed’s (an “eyesore” according to Canadian condo mogul Brad J. Lamb, the man behind the architectural marvels of SoBa and Gotham). But it will solidify in ink something that we can all agree on–condo hater or not–when it comes to the neon monikers that mark our city’s skyscrapers: They are offensively stupid.

Jun. 21, 2017: This article has been revised.