Kensington Market Tries to Crowdfund its Fight Against RioCan and Walmart




Kensington Market Tries to Crowdfund its Fight Against RioCan and Walmart

Using a Kickstarter-like platform, Friends of Kensington Market is trying to raise money to help quash a developer's designs.

A rendering of the proposed shopping centre. Image courtesy of Turner Fleischer Architects.

A group is introducing something new to Kensington Market’s ongoing fight against a Walmart-anchored shopping centre that’s being proposed for the neighbourhood’s western border: crowdfunding.

Friends of Kensington Market, one of the neighbourhood’s many community organizations, has started a campaign on Projexity, a Toronto-based web start-up that specializes in Kickstarter-like crowdfunding for urban projects. The idea is to raise $120,000 from donors in 90 days, all to be spent on planning studies and legal help.

It’s not uncommon for residents’ associations to pitch in on projects like these, but the idea of going further afield for funding is a novel one. A neighbourhood less famous than Kensington might not be able to manage it.

The importance of the things the campaign is supposed to pay for—planning studies and legal advice—shouldn’t be underestimated. RioCan, the developer that’s serving as the public face of the Walmart proposal, is in the middle of trying to win a zoning amendment from the City, which is a political process that hinges on city council’s approval.

RioCan is already trying (and, if the polls and petitions are to be believed, failing) to get councillors and the public on its side by promoting its own studies, which claim that a Walmart would have no impact on the surrounding neighbourhood. In an interview with us last month, a RioCan vice president actually said those words: “no impact on the community.”

Yvonne Bambrick, a former Kensington Market BIA coordinator who volunteers with Friends of Kensington Market, considers that claim, and those studies, to be highly suspect.

“I feel as though RioCan got what they paid for, to a certain extent, in terms of an opinion that supported their belief that they weren’t going to have an impact,” she said. Bambrick believes that a large shopping centre would choke Bathurst Street with car and truck traffic, and would also put business pressure on many of Kensington’s small grocers and retailers. She doesn’t believe the project deserves a zoning amendment. (“The zoning is there for a reason,” she said.)

Any studies that cast doubt on RioCan’s claims could help swing the eventual council vote in favour of the Walmart’s opponents—although Bambrick was careful to note that she and her group can’t say how much their studies will disagree with RioCan’s studies until the research is done.

Legal help, paid for with crowdsourced money, could help Friends of Kensington Market fight RioCan if the company decides to appeal its case to the Ontario Municipal Board.

The crowdfunding campaign, which launched two days ago, got its start when one of Projexity’s founders, Marisa Bernstein, approached Friends of Kensington Market with the idea of raising money for the fight against RioCan. Projexity launched just a few months ago, and this campaign will be its largest to date.

Similar to other crowdfunding websites, like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, Projexity takes a cut of each campaign’s proceeds. Its fee is five per cent of the total raised. Another one per cent goes into a separate fund that Projexity donates to urban-improvement projects.

Friends of Kensington Market won’t receive any money unless the campaign raises at least $20,000. From there, the group will continue to get money in $20,000 chunks until the final goal is reached.

You can donate to Friends of Kensington Market’s campaign right here.