506 to 516 Church Street, which is now occupied by Crews & Tangos, Boutique Bar and a Target Park parking lot, will be radically transformed in the coming years.
The properties are owned by Graywood Group, a Toronto-based real estate developer. Graywood is undertaking preliminary consultations with community stakeholders, a precursor to a development proposal that will likely be submitted to the City later this year.
According to a representative for Graywood, "the vision for this site is to introduce a mix of uses, including retail and residential. The development proposal is early in the process and Graywood is committed to working closely with the community as this proposal progresses through the development application process."
In meetings with Graywood, Councillor Wong-Tam has strongly advocated for the Village's character, safe spaces and LGBTQ2S+ communities. According to her office, she in particular requested that Graywood meet with Crews & Tangos and Boutique Bar to discuss extending their leases as well as the possibility of returning to the space post-development. Graywood agreed to a two-year lease extension so that the businesses can continue to operate during the planning stage.
On March 17, Greywood and Crews / Tangos released a joint statement outlining an agreement to keep the bars in the new development. The full text is below:
Statement re: Church Street development on behalf of Graywood Developments and Michael Ramawad of Crews & Tangos
As many are aware, Graywood Developments has recently acquired the 506-516 Church St. properties. Part of this development site includes the location of Toronto’s beloved drag bar, Crews & Tangos. Since acquiring the property, Graywood has been in dialogue with business owner Michael Ramawad, as well as local Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam regarding the future of the business.
While the spread of COVID-19 and the immediate safety of our friends, patrons and community members remains top of mind, Michael and the team at Graywood Developments felt it was important to address the long term viability of Crews & Tangos. The significant challenges before us do not diminish the fact that the future of Crews & Tangos remains a vital concern for many.
Though the development process has just started, it has always been Graywood’s intention to continue working collaboratively with the community to respect and honour the fabric of Toronto’s Gay Village. Graywood and Michael have been in constant, productive dialogue since Graywood acquired the property. To ensure the Church-Wellesley and LGBTQ2S+ community do not lose an inclusive, safe space, the Crews & Tangos lease has been extended for two years during which time regular operations will continue (notwithstanding any potential interruptions due to the impact of COVID-19).
We are also happy to announce that Graywood Developments and Michael Ramawad are exploring a joint plan aimed at maintaining a presence for Crews & Tangos in the future, new development. In the coming weeks Michael Ramawad will join Graywood in meetings with key neighbourhood and community organizations in an effort to solidify the community engagement process. Any and all meetings will follow protocols set forth by local health authorities amidst the spread of COVID-19.
“Over the past few weeks, the outpouring of emotion towards Crews & Tangos has been incredibly heartwarming. Crews & Tangos has been a home to me for more than 10 years now,” says Michael Ramawad, Owner, Crews & Tangos.
“It was the first place I was comfortable enough to come out and to live my truth. I’ve witnessed proposals, weddings, and people’s journeys as they discovered a place where they felt safe and accepted. Crews & Tangos means as much to me as it does to you, and together, with Graywood, we are committed to finding a solution to maintain this crucial space for the LGBTQ2S+ community.”
“Since the beginning of this process, we’ve been very fortunate to listen to and learn from Michael. While we understood the significance of this venue, Michael has deepened our appreciation about how valuable this space is for LGBTQ2S+ community members,” says Christine Yee, Director of Development, Graywood. “Though we are still early in the process we are committed to working with Michael and the community to preserve and maintain the cultural heritage and legacy of Crews & Tangos.”
The Graywood project is still in the pre-application stage. Further discussions with the City and stakeholder groups, including the CWNA, will take place before Graywood submits a development application. At that point, community consultations will be undertaken and City staff will report on how the application fits with the City's Official Plan and urban design guidelines, which call for low- to mid-rise buildings along Church Street.