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Loblaws, City Hall at odds over 1928 Art Deco HQ
Grocery giant wants to build on site of historic head office

Peter Kuitenbrouwer
National Post
9 August 2005

A Loblaws request for a permit to demolish its historic head office in downtown Toronto -- to make way for a new superstore -- has run afoul of city planners, heritage activists and local residents who want to save the 1928 Art Deco building.

Last month, councillors gave the supermarket and planning staff another month to work out a deal. If that fails, Loblaws plans a showdown with planners next month at the Ontario Municipal Board, an appointed body with the power to overturn council decisions.

The building at 500 Lake Shore Blvd. W., at the corner of Bathurst Street, is a sprawling, four-storey granite and yellow brick structure with a turreted roof line. On the stone above the main entrance one can still read the Loblaws name. Copper lettering above the main door reads, "Loblaw Groceterias Co. Limited."

A 1928 report in the magazine Contract Record and Engineering Review described the building as "realizing the value of a well-groomed building. The owners spared no expense to make the warehouse as attractive to the eye as possible."

Loblaws moved out many years ago and loaned it, rent-free, to the Daily Bread Food Bank for use as a warehouse. The building has been vacant for about five years. Last year, Wittington Properties Limited, a private company owned by the Weston family (which also controls Loblaws), sold it to Loblaw Properties Ltd., a branch of the grocery giant.

In December, Loblaws applied for a demolition permit, saying it would save parts of the west and south facades.

The future of the historic building is tied up with Wittington's ambition to rezone for housing a piece of vacant land it owns east of the building.

According to a staff report, the Committee of Adjustment backed those zoning changes on the condition "that the historic building at 500 Lake Shore Boulevard West is protected in perpetuity." Widdington has appealed that condition to the OMB.

The city consulted locals in April, where about 40 people expressed concern about the demolition plan, the report says.

The report adds that the Loblaws building and the Tip Top Tailors Building across the boulevard "play a key role in the Fort York neighbourhood."

Jeff Wilson, a spokesman for Loblaws, said yesterday the company has "a plan to redevelop that site in the near future. We will be putting a store there."

Asked about efforts to save the building, he said, "It's in various states of repair. Currently in its present state it's not useful to anyone. It is a far cry from its original beauty. We will work with the city through the planning process to deal with it in the best interest of the community."

Changes in the Heritage Preservation Act approved by Queen's Park this year may help the city save the building. Under the old law, if the city refused a demolition permit, a builder could simply wait 180 days, then go ahead and wreck anyway. Under the new law, Loblaws will have to win OMB approval to knock it down.

Olivia Chow, the local councillor, yesterday expressed optimism for a deal.

"The developer promised me that they will not go to the OMB yet," she said. "We're giving [negotiation] a chance."

Ironically, Loblaws bid to maximize revenue from the site may help the city save the building after all. Loblaws wants permission to take down two huge "third-party" rooftop billboards alongside the Gardiner Expressway when it demolishes the building, then re-erect them when the new building goes up. Because the city no longer permits such signs, "staff would likely recommend refusal if an application was made to re-erect the signs," the city report says. "This is possibly an area for discussion with the applicant in the context of revisions to the application."

John Martins-Manteiga, curator of the Dominion Modern museum, said any plan should save the building, not just the facade. "That building is prime Deco," he said. "It's built right when the scene was happening ... If they leave the facade, the building is dead. Its soul is gone. These people need a slap in the face."
 

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Realpolitik at its best. An agreement will be reached with the city giving extra zoning to the Widdington lands otherwise the city might risk demolition of the historic building.
 

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What is this Loblaws company THINKING?!
 

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The Greatest
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^Financially. Reconstruction is incredibly exsensive. While Loblaws has history with the building, the current ownership does not.

Wittington should just donate the building to the city (providing they can run a Loblaws from it) and even help pay for some of the reconstuction letting the Westons take advantage of the tax deductions
 

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I don't see how it is... In fact, it is protecting them from themselves... The public would be extremely P.O-ed if they went and did that without any consultation. So there are guidlines in place.
 

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The Greatest
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"Its ironic how they need to obtain permission to tear down their own building."

You need permission to do anything
 

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partybits
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I'm not sure if anyone has a pic of this building, but it is really falling apart. I think if they forced Loblaws to renovate the site, they would simply back out of the deal due to costs. It would be fairly hard to do anything else with it either. It's old, falling apart and under the Gardiner, literally! Part of the building actually goes under the highway (I better be talking about the right building or I probably sound like a jackass by now...lol).
Anyways, while I am always supportive of heritage type buildings, it has to be reasonable. If I had a choice between seeing that building continue to be abandoned or scrapped and build as a Loblaws (which this community desparatly needs), I would go for Loblaws.
However, there should be nor reason not to keep the facade. That would at least look good at street level as compared to a modern bland warehouse style more typical of Loblaws.
 

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partybits
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SP!RE said:
I don't see how it is... In fact, it is protecting them from themselves... The public would be extremely P.O-ed if they went and did that without any consultation. So there are guidlines in place.

Maybe not, Loblaws succesfully managed to stick one of their stores (or will be I should say) inside the Maple Leaf Gardens without barely any public outrage. I personally hated Loblaws ever since, but if MLSE does'nt get the public pissed, I highly doubt an out of the way factory would cause much commotion
 

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^ Excellent point. Is the MLG Loblaws opening any soon? Is it even underconstruction?
 

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partybits
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Last I heard, it's been approved, but then it suddenly fell off the news. I would like to get an update.
I was so upset at them, I have boycotted them ever since and refuse to shop there. It don't mean much to them, but **** them, MLSE was a great building and for a Canadian company to have so little disregard, the CEO can go suck my......ahhh never mind.
 

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I can't recall what that factory looks like, but I don't think people should be so quick to snap in an over-my-dead-body attitude. Urban development is inevitable. Sooner or later many buidlings come down for new ones to go up.

Any one have pictures of this building?
 

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I think any historic buildings in this area should be adaptive re-used....keeps it from taking on a Vancouver look with all the point tower condos. This building is a nice partner to Tip Top across the street, sort of kitty-corner. They could add an excellent addition to the top like Tip Top did, which doesn't take away from the origional building. The city should encourage this by awarding extra densities for the tower they want to build next to it.

The first floor would make for a terrific Loblaws...keep the giant windows and iron posts...better than the re-created version they seemed to like on the new one they built on Queen's Quay East.

It is in pretty bad shape though...brick re-pointing will be a huge job, and the decorative deco details on top are literally metal strapped together so they don't fall off.







KGB
 

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The Greatest
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Some developer in partnership with Loblaws at the end of the tech boom planned to convert floor 2 to 4 to office lofts - wasn't the brightest idea, IMO, to pre-lease in its delapitated state
 

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partybits
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A little off topic, but in respect to historic preservation. Does anyone know what the deal is with the two building on Yonge Street (between Queen and Dundas)? There absolutely beautiful buildings with huge columns. The two are boarded up though and have a Leasing sign on them.
 

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The Greatest
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"Does anyone know what the deal is with the two building on Yonge Street (between Queen and Dundas)? There absolutely beautiful buildings with huge columns. The two are boarded up though and have a Leasing sign on them."

One is for sale at an outrageously high price. Don't know about the other one
 

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partybits
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So greed may be the issue. So unfortunate because those buildings have so much potential. Can't get much better piece of real estate than that. Do you know who owns it, and for that matter how they obtained it?
 

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So greed may be the issue.
It's also possible the area is zoned commercial.

It appears to me that the PATH to Maritime Life was made to be extended North to their neighbour. Residential PATH connections are quite rare, so I suspect the properties are commercial only.

Once 20 York is underway we may see a 20 floor office proposal for this part of Yonge.
 
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