Sam the Record Man sign lives to fight another day
The Sam the Record Man sign could still return to its former perch on Yonge Street, Ryerson Univeristy President and Vice-Chancellor Sheldon Levy says.
Speaking shortly after city council voted 24-18 to refer the discussion back to city staff, Levy said the university was always willing to hang the sign outside the new Student Learning Centre or the Ryerson library on Gould Street, despite asking to be released from its agreement with the city.
"We always thought there was a better solution than that," Levy said. "There was a number of people, ourselves included, that thought we could find a better location. We were always willing to meet the obligation of putting it on Gould Street, that was never the question."
Levy said accusations Ryerson had reneged on its contract were inaccurate. He said the university had planned to work with the city to put it on the Student Learning Centre and keep the library as a back-up location.
The vote tells city staff to report back on possible locations, including the original site on the corner of Yonge and Gould. There is no timeline for answer.
Ryerson pitched a set of revised "commemorative actions" in August that included a granite or bronze interpretive plaque to be set into the sidewalk in the shape of the old sign.
The massive sign was erected in 1961 to mark the flagship store in Sam Sniderman's record store empire. The company grew from a stand in the Sniderman family's radio store in to a much-loved nationwide chain - "140 locations, coast to coast." The rise of digital music purchases forced the company to declare bankruptcy and downsize in 2001.
The Yonge Street store closed in 2007 and today only one outlet remains, tucked in a corner of the Quinte Mall in Belleville, Ont.
Ryerson University was granted permission to demolish the vacant store at Yonge and Gould in 2008, providing it re-erect the neon sign on the outside of its new Student Learning Centre. Since then, the university has repeatedly cited cost, design, and safety concerns - mercury spillage included - in trying to find an alternative to the sign.
"I'm happy with the outcome today because it preserves the agreement, it keeps it in place," said councillor Josh Matlow, who spoke in favour of holding Ryerson to its original contract. "It tells Ryerson that you didn't make a good enough argument to renege out of the agreement that you signed, that you agreed to."
"Our city has a shameful history of protecting its heritage ... I think there needs a point where we draw a line in the sand and say 'if you have an agreement to protect our city's story, you have to meet it.'"
Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.