If your current downtown Toronto condo building is leaving a lot to be desired, just be glad you don’t live in ICE Condominiums.
At least, if a recent pair of TikTok videos is even half true.
“Looking back, the anxiety that place caused was catastrophic for me,” says former ICE Condos resident Kylene Loucks. “I still dream about being trapped in the apartment, which is irrational, but it still happens.”
If the ICE Condos name sounds familiar, it’s because it is; the building is no stranger to crime and chaos, which often makes local headlines (but not always… more of that later).
Now, the infamous condo building at 12 York Street is having perhaps one of its biggest moments in the spotlight, thanks to a few viral TikTok videos that expose elements of the building that give me major second hand anxiety just to hear about.
After finally moving from ICE Condos after a horrific year, Loucks, a 27-year-old Toronto writer, took to the social media platform to tell others about the endless elevator wait times, perpetual late-night fire alarms, rotting garbage, and crime that has plagued the building.
when I tell you this is not the worst of it …… Part 2? #fyp #toronto
Loucks -- originally from London, Ontario -- moved into ICE Condos in July 2020 with a roommate after their realtor “really sold” the building. Loucks had lived in Little Italy for a year and in the College Condos at College and Spadina prior to that.
“I had an amazing experience in both neighborhoods and fell in love with the city. At the time, I had high hopes moving beside the Rogers Center and Scotiabank Arena, being a major Leafs fan and concert lover,” says Loucks. “Somehow in three years of living downtown, I had neither encountered nor been warned about the Ice buildings.”
The landlord met Loucks and her roommate to give them the keys and then moved back overseas for the next year. “We had very minimal communication after that first day,” says Loucks.
Within a couple of months, Loucks lost her restaurant job after Toronto went back into lockdown. “It became clear that my employment insurance was not going to be enough to cover my half of the $2600 rent,” says Loucks.
By this point, the building’s countless deficiencies had become glaringly clear.
“There was constantly a stench of garbage and trash in the halls and stairways because the garbage chutes were never operational,” says Loucks. “One elevator had been down since the day we moved in and social distancing was non-existent inside the building, nor was there enforcement of the mask mandate.”
long story short it was a bad time #toronto #ClearlyTransform #fy
Loucks initially tried to appeal to the building management about the state of things, specifically the elevator which was a huge source of anxiety for her. “We were always told it was unknown when it would be fixed but that a service team had been notified. One Low Rise elevator (servicing 29 floors) was down for four months straight before being fixed, only to periodically break again,” she says.
Oftentimes, both elevators were out of service for the low rise floors, leaving anyone with mobility issues or groceries, pets, and large items stranded. It was extremely rare for all of the five elevators to be operational, says Loucks.
“I didn’t invite my family to view the unit out of fear for an elevator incident which was likely to happen,” says Loucks. “The one time my dad did come to the unit to help me move, a full grown man called me ugly for asking him to wait for the next elevator. That was embarrassing. My poor dad had no clue how to react.”
Meanwhile, the pandemic raged on and the building wasn’t making any changes to the social distancing issues, prompting Loucks and other residents to contact local bylaw officers.
“Two bylaw officers came to the property in the time that I saw, but I’m not sure whether anything ever came of it and the distancing enforcement certainly did not change,” says Loucks. ”It wasn’t uncommon for nine people to pile in an elevator that was reserved for three.”
But the building’s safety issues spanned beyond the pandemic. Frequent police presence was all part of the experience of living in the building, which housed its share of constant verbal and physical altercations in lobbies and other apartments, says Loucks.
Furthermore, Loucks says there were more AirBnb residents showing up than there were actual building residents -- and in the grips of a global pandemic, nonetheless.
“The building was constantly catering to Airbnb guests versus the actual residents,” said Loucks. “Incidents around the elevator could quickly turn physically aggressive and multiple people were involved in altercations over asking people to enforce social distancing.”
In one such altercation, Loucks says her roommate had a drink thrown at her over asking a young group of Airbnb guests to wait for the next elevator. “The result was them piling six people into the elevator, pushing her out, and throwing a drink as she walked towards the concierge desk to report the incident,” says Loucks. “We were told since they were Airbnb guests that nothing could be done, and nobody knew who they were. There were no rules or measures of security for the residents.”
Violent incidents were never addressed unless they were covered in the media and needed to be, says Loucks.
“After the second shooting while I was there, in March, I asked for a follow up from the building and was told that it didn’t happen on the building’s property – even though there was a bullet hole in the lobby glass,” says Loucks.
The March 6th, 2021, shooting went unreported in the media and by the building. “If residents missed the 11 gunshots at 4am they would never have known it happened,” says Loucks.
After an email to the police department proved ultimately unhelpful, Loucks asked officers stationed out front of the building about the shooting. “They said they understood my concern, recommended I move as soon as possible, and said, ‘unfortunately we can’t tell you that nobody was hurt and everyone has been apprehended.’ That was the last I heard of the incident,” says Loucks.
Even the parking garage was a battlefield of its own, says Loucks. “There is no parking enforcement by anyone. When I reported multiple unknown vehicles parked next to mine on weekends I was told that it is the unit owner’s responsibility to deal with and nothing could be done. The parking space owner is responsible for calling a bylaw officer and tow truck to come deal with it.”
The obvious question, of course, is why didn’t she leave? Well, it wasn’t that simple.
“Once we realized how bad it was we made the tough decision to ask to get out of the lease early but our landlord denied our request. He said he was already losing money on the unit and we had a legal obligation to remain,” said Loucks.
“So then, it became a countdown until we could escape. We stayed inside the apartment as much as we could, and on the advice of the security guards, avoided groups of 4-5 people in hallways and lobbies.”
Loucks inevitably had to ride out her lease. Understandably, she wanted to wait to share the video until she had moved out. “The response to the videos has been overwhelming but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily surprising. Seeing comments from other people who had similarly traumatizing experiences just reinforces that the issues have been ongoing for way too long with no resolution,” says Loucks.
“Even though I took the time to compile the videos and share my story, there are thousands of other people who packed up their lives, got out, and never looked back at the building or the money they wasted on it.”
She says she wanted to share her experience to spare other home seekers the same trauma.
“I decided to share it because I’m hopeful that people in the GTA will see it and not make the same mistake we did by not researching the building before signing a lease. Or possibly, that potential AirBnb guests see the video and decide not to book there,” says Loucks. “I feel terrible for the people who invested to buy a unit in that building for it to be overrun with crime and short-term rental guests.”
So far, she calls the comments and conversations it’s inspired “strangely vindicating.”
She points to comments that suggest that there is high level organized crime happening in the building. “Drugs, prostitution, and sex trafficking have all been mentioned by hundreds of commenters who say it is well known that criminal operations thrive in the building,” says Loucks. “The most suspicious part was how that shooting was covered up back in March.”
Now, Loucks is in a new spot in another part of town and much happier.
“My living situation is certainly a lot more stable now that I have moved out,” says Loucks. “I have always loved Toronto but the inside of that building highlighted some of the ugliest parts. I spent so many days cooped up inside just to avoid the elevators and the lobby that it made lockdown feel even more isolated somehow.”
As for ICE Condos, it didn’t take long for the company to get wind of all the talk. They released a statement this afternoon. "With respect to a TikTok video and comments circulating, ICE Condominiums disagrees with many of the comments made," it says, in part. You can read the full statement here.