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Merchants left in biz 'limbo'

Local shop owner says he was shocked by eviction notices

Station Square shoe repair shop owner Joseph Emin said he was shocked when business owners in an outside corridor of the complex were given eviction notices for the end of August.

The merchants were reassured for years by property manager Anthem Properties that they would not be required to vacate when development of the new Station Square complex took place, said Emin, who has owned the shop since 1995.

"The manager came here - every year, they bring us chocolates for Christmas - and I said, 'I hope this is not the last Christmas gift,'" he said. "She said, 'No, no, you guys are going to stay.'"

In the spring, the owners were told the developer needed the corridor as a thoroughfare for machinery, according to Emin.

"They said, 'Guys, sorry, the developer told us there is no room for the machines to work here, you have to go,'" he said.

Previously, the owners had been told they could stay at least 14 months in that area and could then relocate to spots on the south side of the property, he said.

If Emin had known he would have to move by September, he would've looked for spots elsewhere on the property, he added.

"If I knew that, I could get a space... at that time, there was space available," he said.

The property management company has not notified the merchants as to whether or not they can return in a couple of years once construction is finished, according to Emin.

He is not sure whether he should shut down for two years and find work until he can reopen in the new complex, or if he should sign a five-year lease at a new location, he said.

Moving means starting again from scratch with a new client base, he added.

He has sent emails to the management company repeatedly since he received his notice but has had no response, Emin said.

"I'd like them to tell me exactly where I'm standing," he said. "I want to have peace of mind, so I can make my plans, make my decisions (about what) to do next."

Emin has two young children, he said, and a $2,000 mortgage. He is the only member of his family bringing in an income, and said he is worried the bank will take his home if he doesn't have a job.

His customers are very upset about the loss of the local shops along the corridor, he added.

"They say, 'We don't want to lose you, we need you,'" Emin said. "It's just so unfortunate. "

Boston Pizza and Red Robin have already closed, and a currency exchange two doors down from the shoe repair shop has a sign in the window stating it is relocating on Aug. 25.

Between the shoe repair shop and the currency exchange, Station Square Jewellers is having a closing sale.

The owner's son, Atish Rama, said his family has run the store for 22 years.

"We were just assuming we could come back here when they rebuild," he said. "We're still waiting, and they're not giving a yes or no answer."

He said the business owners in the area were told for years that they could stay.

"When we got the notice, everybody was just in shock here," he said.

His family has been in touch with Anthem since the spring, but Rama said they have not received confirmation that the business can return once construction is completed.

"There's nothing yet, so we're still waiting," he said.

Customers have also reacted to the news with shock and dismay, according to Rama.

"Some of the customers were crying, actually crying, when we told them we were moving," he said.

But he hopes the property managers will tell them soon that they can return to the complex, he added.

"We don't even mind closing for two years and coming back," Rama said. "Hopefully we can get the store back."

Anthem's senior vice-president of development, Rob Blackwell, did not respond to requests for an interview before press time.

The first phase of development on the site is focused on the northern part of the current site, between Kingsborough Street and Kingsway, with changes to the south portion to be considered later on.

Plans include commercial space at ground level, offices in the next two storeys, and five residential towers ranging in height from 35 to 57 storeys.

The development includes plans for a number of open, public spaces, as well.