Tagging on storefronts is the biggest challenge

The City of Toronto may have ramped up its war on graffiti, but the Bloor by the Park Business Improvement Area (BIA) has been fighting local tagging for years.

The stretch of homes and shops on Bloor Street West between Keele Street and Dundas Street West has a long-standing history with graffiti.

"It used to be really bad for about an eight-year period - it just looked awful," said Ed Guca, BIA Chair and owner of the Movie Art Decor video store.

Three years ago, the BIA commissioned graffiti artists from as far as the United States to paint over the walls of the back alley between Keele and Dundas West subway stations - with the city's approval.

"The BIA supplied the paints and everything and it was done to relate to the businesses that were there and be more of an artwork. I don't think any of them have been touched yet," said Guca.

But it has not stopped graffiti tagging from cropping up on the storefronts, nor ensuing notices from the city. According to Guca, a handful of owners got letters from the city in January, but the group were able to receive an extension for the cleanup after meeting with a bylaw officer.

"Our store on the front has been tagged five or six times," said Guca, who has diligently painted over each time - often within 24 hours.

Frame It owner David Ignas has been leasing his Bloor Street location for two-and-a-half years. He said he likes the murals on the back of his store - it's the tagging in the front that's been the nuisance. Several times he's volunteered his own time to clean up neighbouring storefronts, but he takes it all in stride.

"We're an urban centre and this is part of it," said Ignas. "If you want a clean backyard, go to Mississauga."

Guca's store has installed a night camera to catch the perpetrators. He recently caught an incident on tape at 4 a.m., but said the event happened too fast for the camera to snap any sort of meaningful image.

"He got to the wall and tagged it in about 15 seconds and was out of there," said Guca.

The BIA is working on a cost-sharing plan to present to its members to deal with the tagging woes. Under the plan, the BIA would hire an on-call painter to deal with tagging as soon as it happens. The labour costs would be covered by the association, while the supplies would have to be supplied by the building owners. The plan would provide a way for business owners to act quickly, which Guca believes is key to deterring future attacks.

"I'll go by my own experience; once we got tagged and we removed it. We got tagged again in about a month, we removed that - we didn't get tagged again for about six months."

Noel Grzetic, InsideToronto.com June 8, 2011

Businesses work together to combat graffiti. The BIA comissioned murals to be painted along the corridor behind the stores on Bloor Street West, but it has not stopped graffiti from popping up on the storefront, or even around the mural's themselves. Staff Photo/ NOEL GRZETIC