By Eric Lam
Officials with the Yonge Street Mission say Ryerson President Sheldon Levy has discussed purchasing the organization’s Evergreen Yonge Street property for a new gateway to the school, but Levy denies meeting with any Evergreen official.
“Our president meets with the president of Ryerson on an occasional basis to touch base,” said Karen Bach, program director for the Evergreen Centre on Yonge Street just north of Sam the Record Man.
Bach said the centre has also felt the squeeze of new developments north and south of the property.
“Ryerson’s attempting to purchase the Sam’s building [to the south] and I know a developer recently purchased a building to the north,” she said.
Boch said that Rick Tobias, the president and CEO of the Yonge Street Mission, which manages Evergreen, had met with Levy very recently.
She placed the latest meeting at about six to eight months ago, but wasn’t sure of the exact time frame.
“From my understanding, they met, they talked and they’ll talk again,” she said.
Bach added she had specifically confirmed the matter with Tobias Tuesday morning before speaking with The Eyeopener.
Tobias had told Bach that any discussions held with Ryerson were based on the understanding that the school could only make a move if Evergreen decided to leave its prime position on Yonge Street.
“We’ve been here for 110 years, and we have no plans to leave in the short or long term.”
Meanwhile, Levy denies ever meeting Tobias or any Evergreen official except when he first became president in 2005.
“It’s not true. I’ve never spoken about buying Evergreen, ever,” he said.
“There’s no plans, like zero to enter into a purchasing discussion with Evergreen. Zero.
“If [Tobias] thought we were interested, I can assure you we’re not now.”
Levy said the school’s only priorities have been purchasing Sam the Record Man and completing the Black Star Gallery.
“We can’t afford to buy every piece of property,” he said. “We have to prioritize what is important to us and we can’t do everything.”
Melissa Lovell, an Evergreen administrator, said there had been rumblings around the office in recent weeks that Ryerson would attempt to acquire the property.
Jenn Atkins, a former Ryerson nutrition student who had helped to establish an annual Christmas gift drive for the centre, remembered talking to Bach and another official about the school’s intentions.
Atkins said Bach had told her about architectural drawings depicting an open gateway to Ryerson where the property stands now, and that the centre felt threatened, which Bach earlier denied.
Bach described them as “historical drawings” and said she had never seen them, but had them described to her.
With Evergreen stuck in the middle, Atkins hopes the historic refuge for homeless and disadvantaged youth doesn’t get squeezed out.
“If it’s true that’s pretty sad, I thought Sheldon Levy was about promoting giving out and being a part of the community, not putting aside the parts of the population that are better out of sight, out of mind,” she said.