by Baran Koksal, owner, The DIY Joint
I’ve always loved making something. Since when I was a little boy, I always loved having some tools, working on a small project, using my hands and creativity to bring something to life from scratch. That’s why I got involved with woodworking and purchased the DIY Joint only 3 months before the fire, in September 2021. I was not a stranger to the studio before, I had classes there. My wife told me that after my first class in the DIY Joint, I came back home and told her that “I had one of the best days of my life” and added, “it is an amazing place, I wish it was mine.” Well, after 5 years my wish came true in September 2021 and I was able to finance a loan to help me buy this amazing place.
I was at the building on the day of the fire. I was working late and spent hours that day cleaning up the studio. I wanted to get the studio ready for the upcoming holiday season as we had classes booked, private events planned, projects to complete. Then the fire…
Since the fire, I am not able to go back to my unit. I don’t know if there is anything salvageable there. I don’t know if our members will be able to pick up their belongings. I don’t know if I will be able to survive after returning all the sold out class fees. I don’t know if my insurance will cover any of my losses as they cannot go in and make an assessment. I don’t know how I am going to pay the loan I got while my business generates zero income for the upcoming months. I don’t know if I will be able to find another place so I can set up my business again… There are too many unknowns but yet no answer from anyone. Nothing from the building management, nothing from the building owners. We are told “just wait until…” but we don’t know what that “until” means.
But there was some news for me when I went to the building on the day of the fire. I had a conversation with the building’s new owner and he did tell me that they were planning to send evacuation notices to everyone in March 2022 so they can go ahead with their development plans. I asked him “what development plans” and he told me that they were planning to make condos there, all plans were approved by the city and we have a clause in our lease saying that they can evacuate us with 6 months notice. So they were planning to send a notice to everyone in March so they can start development in September. This was a complete shock to me as only 3 months ago I signed a lease with the building management for 2 years and agreed for a 2 year extension with mutual agreement after that. I was thinking that I would be in that location for the next 4 years when I bought this business. Further, while I asked for a longer term lease multiple times (as my financer requested), no one had the decency to let me know that the building was planned to be evacuated, instead I was given a 2+2 year lease.
When I asked about this evacuation notice development to one of the other tenants who was at the building on the fire day, they told me “yes, we all knew that there were approved plans to convert this place to condos and there will be evacuation notices coming in the very future.”
I always thought in a real estate transaction, the broker or building management company cannot hold any information from you by law. Yet, they neglected to let me know that the building would be evacuated in the next couple months! If I knew that I would need to move this business in the next couple months, I would not buy this business, at least for this price I paid. I feel cheated…
I do feel for the lives lost in the horrible fire. I also feel for my fellow tenants who have been left homeless for their businesses, lost their belongings, memories and hopes. I do hope some of us will come back from this. But I do not know how many of us can survive.