Rye investing in business

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By Jen Gerson

When Ryerson bids to develop its proposed new business building, it will be trying for access to some of the most expensive real estate in Canada.

It’s so expensive that in 1995 the current owner, Cadillac Fairview, paid almost $7 million dollars for a 1 per cent share of the city block that boasts the Eaton Centre, the Marriott hotel and the Trinity Square Church.

Ryerson’s Board of Governors approved a motion to bid on the property last week, though they’ve only received $12.5 million from the government’s SuperBuild fund.

Cadillac Fairview started buying the land from its historical owners, the Eaton family, in the mid ‘70s. Purchases of the strip in the last five years have cost Cadillac Fairview hundreds of millions of dollars.

To get around the high cost of the land, Ryerson will likely negotiate ownership for three of the four floors of the building and the entrance rather than the actual land under the building. Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse likens the deal to buying a condominium.

The Board of Governors has budgeted $60 million for the development of a business building. Lajeunesse expects to raise $25 million through corporate donations, despite the engineering building’s current funding shortfall of $24 million.

It has taken almost a year for Ryerson to raise $1 million for the engineering building and the coast of the name of the building was recently slashed to $10 million from $15 million.

“We haven’t started [fundraising for the business building]. Before you can convince a donor to give money to a building you have to show what the building is going to look like.

“You have to indicate what will be in the building,” said Lajeunesse.

But the dean of the faculty of engineering, Stalin Boctor, is optimistic that the less saleable engineering building will be bailed out.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” he said. “It’s not so secret that naming opportunities for a business building are easier to accomplish than for an engineering building.”

Boctor isn’t the only optimist.

“I think it’s great that Ryerson has the opportunity to have a Bay Street address,” said City Councillor Kyle Rae. “We’re waiting for Cadillac Fairview to come forward with full development approval for this to go forward.”

Rae said that the corner has been slated for redevelopment since 1976.

Since that time, the Toronto Raptors, Maple Leaf Gardens, Macy’s and a new aquarium have looked at building on the lot.

Most were deterred because the floorplate was too small but the aquarium backed down because of the cost, Rae said.

Lajeunesse said that the business building needs to be 210,000 square feet. It will have three floors and a courtyard that will let in natural light. Lajeunesse calls the site ideal. “We’re pleased to have such a large floorplate,” he said.

“We’re hoping that Ryerson can get a top notch architect,” Rae said. “This sounds like it might be the right mix.”

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