June 12th, 2014
A plan to hang the famous Sam the Record Man sign in Yonge-Dundas Square appears to be a hit, even though it may only provide a temporary home for the kitschy marquee.
A city report released Thursday recommends erecting the iconic sign on the roof of the 11-storey Toronto Public Health building at 277 Victoria, which sits at the edge of the square. The report is also proposes installing a sign declaring “Toronto Music City” on the building and possibly using the address next door at 38 Dundas for a “music-related facility,” possibly to house the newly-created Toronto music office.
According to the report, the Victoria location best addressed concerns that the Sam’s sign should be near the store’s original location, uncluttered by other billboards in the square, and visible from Yonge Street.
Councillor Josh Matlow called the plan “an appropriate way to celebrate Sam’s legacy and our music industry.”
The sign is “going to play an iconic role once again welcoming all of us to downtown Toronto,” he said, adding that the most important thing for him is that the family of the late Sam Sniderman, the owner of the legendary record store, is on board.
Sniderman died in 2012. His family was consulted on the plan but his son Bobby did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.
The sign, which brightened the entrance to Sniderman’s store at Yonge and Gould for four decades, has been without a home for the last six years. The store closed in 2007 and a year later Ryerson University bought the site to make room for its new student centre.
The school entered into an agreement with the city to re-install the sign either on its new building or its Gould Street library, but last year Ryerson said the student centre wasn’t suitable, arguing Sam’s giant neon spinning records clashed with its ultramodern architecture, among other complaints. Nobody appeared satisfied with the library location.
Council asked staff last October to hammer out a deal with Ryerson, and after consulting with the school, the Sniderman family, and other interested parties, an agreement has apparently been reached.
Although the Victoria Street building is owned by the city Ryerson would be responsible for the cost of installing, operating, and maintaining the sign. The proposal will go to the city planning committee next week, and likely to council next month for final approval. The university’s board of directors still have to sign off on the deal.
While Matlow supports the plan, he believes the city needs to do a better job at protecting its heritage and should never have let Ryerson renege on the original agreement.
“Many of us would have preferred to see the sign back on Yonge Street but realistically we know that the student learning centre is too far done by now,” he said.
While there appears to be support for the plan, it may not result in a permanent home for the Sam’s sign. The Victoria Street building sits on prime downtown real estate, and the city intends to either sell or redevelop it in the next few years. Provisions would have to be made with the new owner or developer to either keep the sign on site or find another suitable place for it.
“This is not the end of the discussion,” says local councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who has received assurances the city won’t do anything with the building for about decade. “There’s a very good chance that in ten or 15 years we will most likely be having this discussion again.”
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