03/27/2013 12:16 EDT | Updated 05/27/2013 05:12 EDT

Kensington Market posters target realtor

A local real estate agent accused of raising rent and attempting to gentrify Kensington Market is being attacked in posters that have gone up in the neighbourhood recently.

The posters take aim at Phil Pick — a real estate agent connected with a failed attempt to bring a Starbucks location into Kensington Market four years ago.

The posters read "Wanted, Phil Pick, for Killing Kensington Market."

But Pick says he doesn't let the attacks — which have become commonplace — bother him.

"I can't let that upset me," Pick said. "This is nothing new. I get a lot of people yelling at me on the street. I just can't take it to heart. I'm more interested in servicing my clients."

Merchants face rising rents

Some members of the tight-knit community are outraged that Pick represents a local landlord who is increasing rent in a commercial building so much that it is forcing out a number of small independent shops.

"It's actually almost going to triple the rent," said Ossie Pavaro, a spice shop owner.

Pavaro says the increase has forced him to close the shop — started by his father 50 years ago — by June.

But Pick says rising rents are a fact of life in today's Toronto.

"He's paying a rent that's not reflective of market value and paying it for a long, long time," he said. "And in fact the landlord was losing money on an annual basis."

Kensington resident and community activist Dominique Russel says she and other community activists are coming up with ways to protect small businesses from rent increases. One option is to create a real estate trust "so when a building as important historically as that comes up for sale, then the community could buy it," she said.

However, she does not see the point in vilifying Pick — who she says is trying to do his job by getting better rent for his clients.