George Milbrandt –
The St. Lawrence Market has been a Toronto tradition for over 200 years. It is an important destination for residents from across the city and is a leading tourist destination. Last year, National Geographic named this as the Number One food market in the world.
With the Market as its anchor, Toronto’s Old Town is thriving with residential and commercial development, a healthy home decor retail strip, and is bustling with theatres, restaurants, and cafés.
The current North Market building is run down – in need of almost $4 million in repairs – it does not meet the needs of the Saturday Farmers Market or Sunday Antique Market and it sits unused through most of the week.
In 1998 the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association initiated the process to rebuild the North Market building. City council approved the project in 2002. An international design competition selected the winning design in 2010 and a budget was approved for construction in 2012.
At a committee meeting on Monday, June 17, some councillors tried to kill the project in spite of unanimous stakeholder support, city staff support, and all of the demonstrable benefits to the city:
• Improved market area for the farmers and antique markets
• 5-storey atrium to visually connect the North and South Market and the St. Lawrence Hall
• Physical link between the North Market and the Hall, unlocking new revenues through expanded event bookings
• Additional 250 parking spaces
• Improved City landmark and tourist destination
• Kitchen incubator to support small, local food businesses
• Increased activity from café, restaurant, street level stalls, and commercial events
• Improved facilities to encourage 7-day operation with mixed uses
• Consolidated court services, creating efficiencies and saving money for the City
• Energy efficiencies, including geothermal heating and cooling
Most of the project costs are being underwritten by the Toronto Parking Authority and Court Services.
City staff have been working with the architectural firm that won the design competition. Not only did they address concerns from the community and the design jury – including reducing the height to be more in keeping with the neighbourhood – they found cost savings.
As the design has been refined some increased costs have been identified including, most notably excavation for the parking garage and inflation. City staff recommended completing the design work to learn the full costs and adjust the budget.
It is important that we make this investment in the future of our market so that it can continue to serve future generations.
We have started a petition campaign to urge city councillors to keep the North St. Lawrence Market redevelopment project on track. You can sign the petition at your favourite Market merchant or online.
Milbrandt is chairman of the St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood Businss Improvement Area (BIA)