City Council discusses the fate of the Sam The Record Man sign on Wednesday, Oct. 9 PHOTO: RAMISHA FAROOQ

Sam the Record Man sign sees the light

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By Ramisha Farooq

In a Wednesday decision by Toronto City Council, the fate of the iconic Sam the Record Man sign was deferred until further analysis and assessments can be made.

City council voted 24-18 in favour of the motion. The agreement requiring Ryerson University to uphold their end of the contract still stands.

“I think the community could have worked with this in a number of different ways but, the way it did turn out I think we’re very, very pleased it upholds the original agreement,” said Nicholas Jennings, Canadian music journalist, historian and one of the creators of the SOS: Save Our Sign group.

The referral now enabling councillors to recommend a motion for further consultation and review, was brought forward by Councillor Pam McConnell who prescribed that the motion be looked at further before a formal decision is made.

“[It now] involves the community and that’s a first. You know, we haven’t actually haven’t had a direct voice in the process like we’re going to have now,” said Jennings.

City council now request that the Chief Planner and Executive Director of City Planning to report back to the Planning Growth Management Committee within one year on Ryerson’s attempts to find a culturally appropriate and relevant location for the signage.

Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, along with Mayor Rob Ford, has been working with Ryerson to find a more suitable location for the placement of the sign. Yonge-Dundas Square was mentioned several times throughout the course of the meeting as a viable option.

“I certainly think that Yonge-Dundas Square is a very appropriate location, it’s the busiest intersection in the country, it is a place where we celebrate music and hold concerts all the time,” said Wong-Tam.

Wong-Tam also mentioned that thousands of citizens and tourists visit the square on a regular basis to celebrate music through free concerts and other programming, and that the placement of the sign in the square would increase visibility.

“[It] can connect the new generation of music lovers to the sign and that’s where we start that exploration and discussion,” said Wong-Tam.
“I don’t know if it would be the one that I would land on but it is certainly worth further studying.”

The initial 2008 contract between the owner of the iconic shop, Sam Sniderman, and Ryerson was agreed upon, on the condition that the university re-install the sign on their new student building, directly on Yonge Street where the historic record store once stood.

In 2015 the lot will be occupied by Ryerson’s new Student Learning Centre (SLC), currently in construction.

In 2011, Ryerson cited that structural and environmental issues prevent them from placing the sign on the new building, in the form of mercury leakage. Alongside this, the university stated cost of maintenance and issues regarding its incorporation to the design of the centre as causes for concern.

The school decided to propose a compromise.

Ryerson stated that they would to keep the sign preserved for two years and fine new ways to commemorate the shop, including a website that displayed the shop’s history and a plaque on the sidewalk in front of the new student centre.

“I am not convinced….why would the (environmental) concern not apply somewhere else,” said Ward 22 Councillor Josh Matlow, a long time advocate of the Sam sign.

“Not one shred of evidence shows that Ryerson was going to put up the sign.”

Matlow stated that if there was an issue with cost, it is not city council’s problem.

“They came to us….not one shred of evidence to demonstrate their concerns for the environment. When we have an agreement, we have an agreement,” said Matlow.

“Ryerson is such a great institution. I assume they would want to meet the agreement.”

Jane Binet, international musician and five-time Juno winner, and federal Member of Parliament Peter Kent were also present at the meeting.

According to Councillor David Shiner council members have been receiving thousands of emails from citizens across Toronto and the country expressing their love of the classic sign.

“Why are you letting Ryerson out of their agreement,” said Shiner.

“Toronto wants their sign back up on Yonge Street.”

Ryerson and city management now have one year to review the original agreement and find the most appropriate place for the sign.

A date for further discussion has not yet been scheduled.


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