Rising village rents prompt Proud FM move to Etobicoke

Proud FM, it seems, is just one victim of Church Wellesley Village’s success.

The radio station recently moved out of the village in part because of rising rent, Proud FM program director and announcer Bob Willette said.

“Many businesses have come and gone because of the high rent on Church Street,” Willette said. “The first reason [Proud FM moved] is money. It is expensive to stay down there.”

When the station’s lease at 65 Wellesley St. E. ran out, the radio station waved goodbye to the place it called home for five years at and moved into 5312 Dundas St. W. in Etobicoke.

It is just purely a business decision. That’s all.

—Bob Willette

“Rent downtown is very expensive,” Willette said. “We are a niche-market radio station and we have a limited amount of potential listeners.

“After the five years, the cost per square foot, which is how they do leases for office space, went up fairly significantly.”

Proud FM isn’t alone, said Matthew Cutler, resource development and communications manager at The 519 Church Street Community Centre.

“We have seen many community businesses claim issues relating to rent as the reason why they departed,” he said.

The rising rents are a symptom of Church Wellesley Village’s popularity, Cutler said.

“The village has been seen as a very attractive place to do business,” he said. “There is a lot of demand for space [and] property owners naturally trying to find a way to turn a profit on that success.”

Proud FM’s new home in Etobicoke

It’s just business, Willette said.

“We need to make money, land owners need to make money as well,” he said. “If somebody is willing to pay more money for that space, good for them. We just can’t do that.

“It is just purely a business decision. That’s all. There is no emotion in there.”

But the success of the village isn’t all good for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, Two-Spirit and queer (LGBTQ) community that calls the neighbourhood home, said David Wootton, Church Wellesley Village BIA manager.

“We rely, in this area, on the aesthetic of a small business community that creates a tourist destination or certain flavor that definitely supports the LGBTQ community,” he said. “The LGBTQ community is made up of artists, freelancers and independent business.

“We are losing a little bit of that because we don’t have the affordable rents that people could come in to.”

Though Proud FM now calls Etobicoke home, it hasn’t completely left the village behind, Willette said.

“All of the operations outside of the broadcast studio have been brought here [to Etobicoke] but we are maintaining a studio down there to do some broadcasting from,” he said.