By Adrian Morrow
Ryerson is so close to acquiring Sam the Record Man, it’s already making plans on what to do with the place.
What’s more, the school has its eye on two other properties owned by the same family that used to run the Yonge Street store.
“Yes, I am confident that we will get Sam’s,” said Ryerson President Sheldon Levy. “Am I as confident that we will be able to get the resources from the government to build? I’m optimistic, but not 100%…as I am that we will acquire that property.”
One local realtor says the school asked him about the rental rate for Yonge Street businesses. The school’s plan for Sam’s includes placing retail on the ground floor — a move that proved controversial when Ryerson did the same thing in the new business building.
“[A Ryerson employee] called me to ask how much rent to charge,” said Emile Amar. He added that he’d be happy to see Ryerson move into Sam’s. Ryerson is also consulting students on how to design the space. The school wants to add on to the building and use Sam’s for library and study purposes.
“We’re so far behind in student study space and library space,” said Levy. “[Adding more lounges is] part of trying to build on the feeling of the engagement of the student at the university.”
Meanwhile, the Sniderman family, who own Sam’s, are putting several of their other properties up for sale, including a Church Street parking lot on Ryerson’s campus and a piece of Yonge Street turf across from Sam’s that currently houses an American Apparel.
Levy said Ryerson might be interested if the price was right, and the realtor for the property said he’s requested a meeting with the school.
“The Sniderman family is pretty protective. We’re trying to run a fairly tight process,” said Bryce Gibson of real estate firm J.J. Barnicke Ltd. “We’ve tried to book a meeting with the school, and until I hear from them I can’t really comment.”
Sam the Record Man closed shop last summer after years of financialstruggles. A few months earlier, Ryerson offered to buy the property from the Snidermans, but didn’t hear back. So, the school went to the provincial government and asked them to expropriate the property, which would have forced the family to sell to Ryerson for a market price estimated to be around $19 million.
“We’re going through the expropriation process and at the same time continuing discussions with the family,” Levy said.
The Sniderman family is divided over its dealings with Ryerson. Sam Sniderman, the octogenarian businessman who founded the record store in the 1950s, supports Ryerson acquiring his old digs. His son Bobby, however, told media last summer that he was unhappy the school was playing for the family business even before the store had closed.
The iconic store was once the flagship for Canada’s largest music chain, where the elder Sniderman became famous for his promotion of Canadian music.
A designated heritage site, Sam’s bright red facade and spinning black wheels would have to be preserved if Ryerson acquires the building.