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Rye plans to shun historic Sam sign

Ryerson has vowed to pay homage to the Sam the Record Man site by incorporating its iconic signage into the new Student Learning Centre, but documents revealed they would rather not. Associate News Editor Carolyn Turgeon investigates

Sam the Record Man was once an integral part of Yonge Street, but Ryerson is not a fan of the iconic sign.

“I would rather not use the sign,” said Ryerson President Sheldon Levy.

This would come as a surprise for community members who campaigned extensively to save the sign in 2007-08.

The piece of Toronto’s heritage was designated as such by Kyle Rae and the Heritage Recommendation Board during his term as Ward 27 councillor.

Rae, who has since established urban consultant company PQR Solutions, said that when Sam’s went bankrupt there were many people who contacted his office and made Facebook groups about maintaining the sign.

“There were probably two generations of Torontonians who grew up and saw it as their rite of passage as teenagers,” said Rae. “I agreed at that time that there was probably a significant impact from that sign.”

He now views the sign’s significance in a different light.

“There is still a cadre of Torontonians that can identify with this sign, but many current ones don’t know [about it],” he said.

He understands the university’s hesitation to place the sign on one of their buildings. “It’s difficult to expect Ryerson to stick the sign on their property when the association will be lost,” said Rae.

The stipulations were that if they were to build on the property, Sam’s sign would have to be restored from its broken down state and then incorporated.

The original plan was that the sign could either be used in the design of the Student Learning Centre (SLC) or put on the South side of the library building, facing Gould Street.

“In order for the university to be able to move on [the property]they had to negotiate with the city where the sign would be reconstructed,” said Levy.

“I’m not sure, to be honest, if that’s something we should be asking property owners to do,” said current Ward 27 councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.

Levy also revealed that restoring and mounting the sign to the building will cost approximately $250,000, which he believes could be better spent by the university.

Concillor Wong-Tam said there are other complications as well.

“It may not be physically possible given the size of the sign as well as technology having changed,” she said.

The sign also doesn’t fit into the city’s new sustainable design for Yonge Street, and its outdated technology would be power consuming and hard to accommodate.

There are now discussions for a more appropriate use of the sign or a different tribute that would better fulfill the needs of the school.

“We are trying to discuss with [city council] a better place to memorialize the Sam’s location,” said Levy.

The Eyeopener obtained a status report on the SLC which proposed a sidewalk tribute instead of the original plan.

Levy acknowledged that a sidewalk tribute was being considered, while Wong-Tam said Ryerson had taken steps in developing an interpretive commemorative plaque for the property.

Levy does not think Sam Sniderman’s sons, Bobby and Jason, would object.

“It wasn’t family that made the issue, it was certain members of the Toronto community that saw it as an important thing and the city council respected their wishes and put it as a condition on the university,” said Levy.

He said Ryerson will make their case, and the citizens may argue against it, but it will ultimately be up to the council.

“Should they make no other decision we are obliged to follow what they have already decided and we will,” said Levy.

According to Rae, the sign was never properly maintained and the city had to get Sam a grant before he would fix it in the late ‘90s.

“We were trying to get it to look like the people who owned property on Yonge Street cared,” said Rae. “Frankly, Sam didn’t care.”


  1. Rob

    I guess this means that all a promise by Sheldon Levy and $1 will get you is a bad cup of coffee.

  2. beamer

    This issue as stated in the article needs much clarification. Kyle Rae speaks that the city “had to” get Sam’s a grant to fix the sign in the 90s. Was this grant part of the Revitalization of Yonge St. funding that the city made available? Since when was it required that the city “had to” provide grants to the private sector?

    Mr. Rae also says that many current Torontonians don’t know about the sign suggesting that those who do are insignificant Torontonians and we should above all cater to “current” Torontonians further suggesting that downtown Toronto culture is an inconvenience. This is shameful.

    So far as Councillor Wong-Tam not being sure we should ask property owners to honour their word in the deals they sign, replacing the original signage with an “interpretive commemorative plaque” is by no means sufficient to the original agreement but I’m sure they were all very pleased with themselves when they came up with the wording to a dismal suggestion.

    Instead of Rae and Wong-Tam tag-teaming for the developers on why the original agreement should not be honoured they should get creative and tag-team for Torontonians to ensure the original agreement is honoured.

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