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Condo developer Thomas Liu — who collected millions but hasn’t built anything — loses court fight with Town of Ajax

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Embattled condo developer Thomas Liu of the LeMine Investment Group suffered another setback Friday when a Superior Court judge ruled against him in his legal battle with the Town of Ajax.

Justice Anne Mullins found the town was entitled to repurchase the land it had transferred to Liu’s company because he failed to begin construction of his proposed development by July 15, 2017, as spelled out in their agreement.

Thomas Liu, head of LeMine Investment Group, is a developer who dreams big but can’t seem to get anything built. He admits his lack of experience has led to some mistakes, but he says his intentions were always noble.
Thomas Liu, head of LeMine Investment Group, is a developer who dreams big but can’t seem to get anything built. He admits his lack of experience has led to some mistakes, but he says his intentions were always noble.  (Lemine Group/YouTube)

The land was slated to be the location of Central Park Ajax, a 410-unit condo project that opened to a frenzied sellout in the spring of 2016. The condo tower was supposed to usher in the revitalization of downtown.

Liu said Friday he plans to appeal the decision. “It appears to be errors of law,” he wrote in an email.

Read more:

This condo developer collected millions in deposits — and hasn’t built anything

Liu and his company were the subject of a Star investigation published online Thursday that found the 35-year-old’s ambitious ideas outstripped his abilities, that he relied on slick marketing to project credibility despite his lack of experience, and that he has failed to deliver high-profile projects. Liu, who is embroiled in 14 different lawsuits, is also the developer of The Academy, a Scarborough condo project that sold out in 2014 and has yet to break ground. Liu said that development is “stuck,” but it is not cancelled.

Twelve condo projects — with a combined 5,625 units — have been canceled in the Toronto area since the beginning of last year, according to market research company Urbanation. Barring a successful appeal from Liu, Central Park Ajax will join that list. The spate of high-profile cancellations — including two major projects in Vaughan in the last six months — have sparked concern over whether there are sufficient protections for buyers, many of whom are priced out of the market by the time their deposits are returned.

On Thursday, the CEO of Ontario’s home warranty program told the Star it’s time the province looks at upgrading protections and transparency for pre-construction homebuyers.

In the case of Central Park Ajax, some purchasers have already pulled out, paying $423.75 in lawyer fees to get back their deposits, which have not accrued interest. Some of those who have yet to ask for their money back had told the Star they were waiting for the outcome of the court case before making a decision.

“I’m ready to get my money back now,” said Ayesha Karatella, 29 after hearing of Friday’s ruling. “I won’t be waiting around for an appeal.”

Karatella purchased a two-bedroom unit in Central Park Ajax for $336,000 and paid more than $33,000 in deposits. It would have been her first home. She said she “kind of expected” Friday’s decision, but was still disappointed and frustrated by the experience.

Documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests show there were major problems with the development almost as soon as Liu and his company took it over. Liu struggled to secure financing, failed to pay tradespeople, defaulted on the property’s mortgage and let the sales centre fall into disrepair, according to internal staff emails, letters from town lawyers and property records.

Liu sued the town earlier this year for $300 million claiming they did not have the right to repurchase the land and had breached their contract. He alleged the July 15, 2017 deadline was negated because the town had neither accepted nor rejected his revised site plan submission to increase the project from 10 to 12 storeys. The town said Liu never submitted a complete application. Justice Mullins agreed.

While the town’s planners provided comments to Liu about the material he submitted, Justice Mullins wrote, they also made clear what required materials were outstanding. Specifically Liu did not submit “fully realized” roofing plans, a traffic study, as well as environmental approvals.

She also said it was clear Liu was fully aware of the deadline to begin construction. All of the evidence, Mullins wrote, points to “a mutual interpretation” between the two sides that construction was supposed to begin no later than July 15, 2017.

“The Town is pleased with the decision and can now move forward pursuing the revitalization of the Ajax Plaza site,” town spokeswoman Rachael Wraith said in a written statement.

Brendan Kennedy is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Contact him at bkennedy@thestar.ca or 416-869-4192. Follow him on Twitter: @BKennedyStar



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Anglais

A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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Anglais

9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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