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Changes in Kensington may be small, but the balance is tipping.
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When it comes to Kensington, there are three senses of the word "market": a place that sells fresh produce and other raw foods; the capital-M Market, the intangible identity of the neighbourhood; and then the market, as in "the free market" - the capitalist forces that can't be stopped but whose deleterious effects can perhaps be mitigated.
The history of Kensington is the history of the tension between them.
Earlier this week it came out that coffee shop Casa Acoreana at 235 Augusta, a local landmark, would soon be closing because the building that houses it is being listed for rent.
I heard about Casa Acoreana's fate while researching a story about the effect of bars on Kensington Market property values, and how liquor licences are effectively pricing long-time food establishments out of the area.
That story, in turn, had emerged from discussions about the consequences of a potential Loblaws at College and Augusta and why it would hardly be the only threat to the neighbourhood's status quo.
And then, while browsing the Esbin Realty website for properties in the Market, I learned that the Baldwin building I live in is up for sale.
It felt like all of Kensington was unravelling.
When I contact Councillor Adam Vaughan, whose ward includes the Market, he tells me that while everyone understands the massive impact of a Loblaws, "it's the small things that have been changing over time that also have a cumulative impact."
One of his chief concerns is the gradual shift away from "greengrocers" - fruit and vegetable stores, butchers, fishmongers, etc - toward new bars and restaurants. "Any one of them by themselves is not the problem, but at some point, when you tip [the balance] from daytime to nighttime, you have an impact on the daytime businesses."
The danger, he explains, comes from the fact that businesses with liquor licences make more money than those selling perishable goods. "When you have a rise in the number of licensed establishments, the rents rise with it. And when rents rise, it impacts those people selling perishable goods, because their rents rise and their taxes rise with them - and that has a cascading impact on the market side of the Market."
The transition is an inexorable one, he says, because the city gets neither to choose tenants nor deny liquor licences.
But that doesn't mean there's nothing City Hall can do.
Vaughan mentions the tax incentives that New York City offers greengrocers and the landlords who host them, part of solving the food desert problem and a critical part of any food security policy. He even thinks it's time to look at the fees the city charges small grocery stores that spill out onto the sidewalk, and at whether independent businesses might have a greater claim to that public realm than chain stores do.
"We're doing a Heritage Conservation study on Kensington," he says - to look at it as a cultural, not just an architectural, phenomenon and to figure out "what needs to be done to sustain an open-air market that's loved by many, many people in this city.''
"How," he asks, "do we return to the Market a sense of control over its future?"
Phil Pick, the Esbin Realty agent who represents several properties in Kensington (though not the one I live in), makes the neighbourhood his business and also his project. Casa Acoreana's landlord is his latest client.
He says the building's owners want to find something more upscale for the Baldwin and Augusta intersection. "Their preference is to find a tenant to take the whole building, or maybe a couple of tenants, but it's a matter now of examining the marketplace," he says. "This building has been in the past for a long, long time."
His comments about the Market's transformation echo Vaughan's. Except where Vaughan speaks of the changes with fear and gloom, Pick discusses them with pride and anticipation.
"To be able to create that corner, I could see a bar going in there; I can see something trendy," he says. He thinks it's most likely to be a bar or a restaurant because "fashion and [businesses] like that can be hard pressed to pay that kind of rent." (The whole property is leasing for $12,600, including taxes and insurance.)
He's more sensitive to Market concerns now than he was in 2008, when he sought to place a Starbucks at the corner of Augusta and Nassau and encountered ferocious opposition. He denies ever having called Kensington "the new Yorkville," and doesn't foresee its turning into such, but he does have a rather teleological take on neighbourhood evolution.
"Neighbourhoods mature, you know; people move in. Same thing's happened on Queen West. Same thing's happened in the Beaches," he says.
So Kensington Market is verging on Queen West and the Beaches? "It's going in that direction," he says, "but different." It has to maintain its unique character, he says.
But whereas Vaughan sees that character as inextricably bound up with the greengrocers, Pick is dismissive of the role they play. He happily volunteers that he doesn't understand the objection to a Loblaws.
"Maybe I'm spoiled because I shop in supermarkets. I don't go to fruit markets. I don't travel around to five different stores to do my shopping if I can go to one that's got parking. So I guess it's just the trend. I wonder if 20 years from now there'll be fruit markets."
That's the question.
As for Casa Acoreana, the Kensington institution could be forced out as soon as its lease expires at the end of May. While Pick doesn't think it will happen that soon, Acoreana proprietor Ossie Pavao is treating that date as the end of the road.
Pavao, who says the business has been operating in the same location since 1963, is still a bit dazed by the news when I call him. But he sounds like he knew this would eventually happen.
"The agent is a guy called Phil Pick. That's all he does is get mom-and-pops out of the Market. That's his livelihood."
"He's gotten rid of a few people already," Pavao says. "Another Yorkville comin'.''