2012 Villain: Donald Trump
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2012 Villain: Donald Trump

Nominated for: lending his name to an ugly, failing, lawsuit-riddled project.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. From December 10 to 19, we’ll unveil the nominees, grouped by category. Vote for your favourites from each batch, every single day! On December 19 and 20 the winners from each category go head-to-head in the final round of voting, and on December 21, we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

Toronto is getting more cosmopolitan every year. Now, just like New York, we have our very own reason to loathe Donald Trump.

The businessman and real estate developer, currently best known for promulgating racist conspiracy theories about the President of the United States, made his Toronto debut in April, at the grand opening of his Trump International Hotel and Tower, at Bay and Adelaide streets.

The building—a collaboration between developer Talon Intnerational and architect Zeidler Roberts Partnership—immediately drew criticism for its mind-boggling combination of opulence and ugliness.

And that was before it came to light that some buyers of units in the high-rise were so dissatisfied with their investments that Talon is actually suing some of them to prevent them from walking away.

According to a series of remarkable articles in the Star, many Trump International buyers sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into the project under the assumption that they were making routine real estate investments. In fact, because of a complex business arrangement that allowed unit owners to share in the hotel’s revenues, some of the apartments ended up being subject to commercial property taxes, rather than lower residential property taxes. On top of that, the hotel hasn’t been as successful as Talon predicted, so the revenue-share deal hasn’t actually turned out to be all that valuable. Now, hardly a week goes by without some poor, hard-working, widowed immigrants coming forward to tell the Star all about how The Donald ate their nest eggs.

Granted, Trump doesn’t bear all of the blame here. His involvement in the design, construction, and maintenance of the hotel has been minimal. He’s a minority shareholder in the project.

On the other hand, he consented to be the hotel’s public face. Nobody threatened to shave off his ridiculous coif if he didn’t. And what does it matter to him? This is a guy who has used his image and his name to sell everything from board games to reality TV, so having “Trump” etched into the marquee of a 65-storey building in some Southern Ontario city he could hardly give a shit about was probably a decision he made with about as much solemnity as he’d devote to picking out a tie.

Trump wasn’t the architect of the hotel’s misfortune, but it was his name and his marketing prowess that enabled it to grow into an outsized failure. If he had supplied as much diligence as he did publicity, things might have turned out differently. Now, come what may, his famous name is tattooed on Toronto’s skyline.

See the other nominees in the Cityscape category:

The Gardiner Expressway

An eyesore that’s creating an increasingly dangerous commute.
  Breaking Condo Glass

Causing injury, closing streets, and sparking lawsuits.
  The Impossible Rental Market

Vacancy rates that make renting hopeless.

Extreme NIMBYism

Taking the fear of change to irrational heights.
  Casino Pressure

Making it hard to make a good decision.
  Bike Lane Fiascos

More angry, more congested, and less safe streets.

Cast Your Ballot