Business building a mystery

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By Don McHoull

Once again Ryerson has been thwarted in its attempts to build a new business building.

Since shortly after Ryerson bought the current building in 1966, plans have been underway to replace it.

As what was supposed to be a temporary stint in the Victoria Street building, stretched into a thirty year stay, it has become clear that the building is a totally inadequate home for Ryerson’s business school.

Originally built as a beer bottling plant in the 1930s, the building was old and dirty and infested with mice.

The building’s notorious elevators terrified staff and students by stalling between floors and sometimes going into free fall.

While Ryerson’s business program grew into one of the largest and best-regarded undergraduate business schools in the country, the building has remained embarrassingly second rate.

“The business school must relate with the business community in Toronto, therefore it must appear professional to the outside world,” then business dean Tim Reid told the campus press in 1985. “I don’t invite business people up here because they’d get the wrong impression of the school.”

A bay Street business building could have changed all that and given the school the showcase it deserves. But it just wasn’t meant to be.

Ryerson has learned some tough business lessons this week.

First, that things often cost more than you plan for. Second, that if you want to get things done on Bay Street, you need to have the cash.

After receiving less than a third of the $40 million in SuperBuild funding it asked for, Ryerson simply couldn’t afford to build on Bay Street.

Business really missed the boat when it came to SuperBuild funding. Engineering, graphic communications management and community services all scored major funding for their new buildings three years ago.

Business was working on a proposal then, but according to President Claude Lajeunesse, it just wasn’t ready in time.

There have been a lot of plans for a new building over the years, from buying Maple Leaf Gardens to tearing down the parking garage and building on top of it. But none of them have come to fruition. Now Ryerson’s Bay Street dreams can be added to that pile.

The university had hope to have a new building up and running by 2005, but that seems impossible now.

Ryerson still has funding from the government to build a new building, so one will be build.

The question is where.

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