By Eric Lam
The Ontario government is considering sharing some of its newly-acquired property with Ryerson.
In an interview on Tuesday, Liberal Health Minister George Smitherman said the Ontario government has acquired the Sears office building and parking lot on 222 Jarvis St., just south of the International Learning and Living Centre (ILC). Ryerson would be among the first in line to acquire the building.
“I’ve been clear in indicating to the people associated with the government it would be necessary and important to work with Ryerson on making sure they’re considered appropriately as part of the neighbourhood,” Smitherman said.
“I’m in close contact with [Ryerson President Sheldon Levy] about those sorts of matters and publicly I’ve been very supportive of expropriation, if that’s necessary, for the Sam’s site.”
Smitherman said he was “aware of Ryerson’s necessity to acquire more space.”
Sears Canada is moving its headquarters to the Eaton Centre, meaning the building will be vacant.
Levy stressed the “preliminary” nature of talks with the Ontario Realty Corporation (ORC), an agency that acquires property on behalf of the provincial government.
“I hope the provincial government will see the critical importance of that land and help us to acquire it for the growing number of students,” he said.
He said the university was more interested in the adjacent parking lot than the building, partly because buying the building was “so far beyond our means.”
Ryerson had submitted a co-operative bid with the city earlier this year to purchase the parking lot. “But the bid was not high enough,” Levy said, and the province bought the property.
“We never thought we’d ever own it, so there was no use in getting your hopes up,” he said.
And Levy still doesn’t expect any motion on the building, at least in the near future.
“I think if the government sees the need for the university to enlarge enrolment then we can talk about a timetable, but we’re not there yet.”
Linda Grayson, VP administration and finance, said last week that the university has only had one meeting with the ORC.
“The property is on our campus,” she said. “We looked out the window and pointed it out [to the agency].”
However, Grayson cautioned the ORC can’t make the decision to transfer the property to Ryerson. The ultimate decision would fall to the province, which owns the land.
“It would be like if someone came to Campus Planning and asked for a floor in Kerr Hall. They can’t make that decision. It would have to come from higher,” she said.
Yet Levy is willing to negotiate.
“If the government came and said we’ll help you out with enrolment and this property will help, I’ll roll over and say fantastic,” Levy said.