Ryerson University may be stepping back from its original promise to remount the iconic Sam the Record Man sign.
With an estimated price tag of $250,000 to restore the giant sign and put it back up, the university is considering alternatives, including a sidewalk tribute.
Sam the Record Man’s store, with its prominent neon-lit sign of two spinning record discs, was a landmark on Yonge Street for generations of music lovers since the 1960s.
The sign had been out of the public eye when Ryerson began demolishing the store, which closed in 2007 after declaring bankruptcy in 2001. After a local campaign, the city designated the building a protected heritage site as a way to save the sign. Ryerson president Sheldon Levy had committed to mounting the sign on the student learning centre the university is building on the site or on the adjacent library building. But new plans unveiled this year did not include it.
“Ryerson does remain committed to the appropriate recognition of the Sam sign as we redevelop the site for our student learning centre,” said Ruth Abbott, Ryerson’s assistant vice-president of marketing and communications. “But we are consulting with our stakeholders and presenting alternatives.”
Those alternatives include a tribute with the history of the store and sign inlaid into the sidewalk.
“I’m sure we will be looking at [public]input,” Ms. Abbott said, adding that a deadline for a final plan has yet to be set.
Any new plan by Ryerson will need city council’s approval, and local Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has been working closely with city staff who are examining the new proposals.
While cognizant of the sign’s heritage value and emotional pull on generations of record lovers, she noted the size of the sign (about two storeys) and its outdated energy-inefficient technology are obstacles to remounting it and that no other sign like it could ever get past council now.
“If we had an application come forward … with a three-storey building, like the size of Sam’s, and a plan to cover two-thirds of the building with signage and wrap the entire corner with it, I’m pretty sure we at the council wouldn’t approve it,” she said.
The Sam’s sign is currently in storage.