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St. Clair businesses file $100M lawsuit

In building the controversial St. Clair Avenue West right-of-way, Toronto was secretly following a policy of “blockbusting,” or gentrification, that would drive out struggling ­businesses, claims a $100-million lawsuit against the city.

In building the controversial St. Clair Avenue West right-of-way, Toronto was secretly following a policy of “blockbusting,” or gentrification, that would drive out struggling ­businesses, claims a $100-million lawsuit against the city.

Documents filed Thursday in Superior Court allege the city was “secretly expecting” that the new line, and the financial harm done to the neighbourhood while it was being built, would lead to “stronger” businesses.

The suit, filed by business owner Annamaria Buttinelli on behalf of other struggling businesses on St. Clair, is seeking certification as a class action. It claims about 200 businesses failed as a result of the protracted construction and many others are in “financial peril.”

The strategy allegedly used by the city is “especially sinister because it unlawfully targets the weak, including many recent immigrants whose commercial interests are thinly financed and precarious at the best of times,” the suit claims.

But the lawsuit, which also names the province and TTC, goes deeper, suggesting a conspiracy to drive out less well-established businesses through construction delays and disruption, with the goal of establishing a stronger tax base.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.