st. patrick's market

Toronto wants to take back the abandoned food court on Queen West

Toronto's historic St. Patrick's Market, an instantly recognizable, 108-year-old structure across from the old MuchMusic building near Queen and John, was built atop land bequeathed to the city in 1837.

The city's gracious benefactor, D'Arcy Boulton, had but one condition for turning over the lot at 238 Queen Street West: That it serve as home to a public market for the rest of time.

You wouldn't know it to walk by the boarded up, trash-laden building today. It's completely vacant —all but abandoned by the company that signed a 50-year lease for it back in 1989.

What was initially intended to be a public venue on par with St. Lawrence Market eventually became a sketchy, standalone food court that nobody really knew what was up with.

Several failed rebrand attempts and at least one high-profile mouse incident later, the space is currently tenantless (unless you count the homeless people living in its doorways.)

City officials are over it, and they want the building back.

"St. Patrick's Market has the potential to be an iconic, city-wide and local destination," wrote City Councillor Joe Cressy in a public letter released Tuesday, stating that the building has been "underutilized" since the current lease holder took control.

"In court documents released today, the City is asking the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to terminate the lease on grounds that the private long-term leaseholder has not complied with key terms of the lease that require a publicly-accessible food market to operate in the building, and the building has been chronically vacant."

"To the deep frustration of the City, local neighbours, and many others, St. Patrick's Market has effectively been vacant for more than year now, accumulating litter and graffiti," continues the letter.

"It is unacceptable that St. Patrick's Market has been left derelict by a long-term tenant, and I strongly support the City of Toronto's legal action to terminate the private lease."

A decision from Ontario's Superior Court of Justice is expected sometime during the winter of 2020, according to Cressy.

Should the City of Toronto win its case, officials will "undertake a robust public process to decide on future uses of St. Patrick's Market."

Strip club, anybody?

Kidding. Whatever happens to the building, it's still owned by the city, and they promise to consider Boulton's original intention of using it as a public market, potentially even revitalizing the public park outside.

"As our downtown grows, it is vitally important that our publicly-owned properties and buildings are used for the public benefit, to provide the vital services and facilities that our vibrant and dense communities need," writes Cressy.

"The City of Toronto has just taken a critical step toward restoring public control, for public benefit, of one of these vital assets in the downtown."

Lead photo by

Tanya Mok

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