The designs are in and feedback channelsare open for a St. Lawrence Market makeover that is more than a decade in the making.
Toronto unveiled five short-listed designs for the market's north building on Friday.
Since the creation of Market Block by 1803 proclamation, the area has been a hive of commercial activity, most recently for weekly farmers and antique markets. But the 1960s-built northern section is "not the most architecturally wonderful building," local Councillor Pam McConnell noted in a formal unveiling.
That's supposed to change: The new vision would meld a ground-floor marketplace with upper-level traffic courts and another three floors of underground pay parking. Two of the designs include event space that could be rented out or, some arts groups hope, used for performances.
The city's 2010-19 capital budget includes $75-million devoted to the project over the next four years.
A seven-person jury, including designers, architects and novelist and Globe and Mail columnist Russell Smith, will collect feedback over the next several days and decide on a winner by June 7. Comments are being collected onsite this weekend and through the city website (see here). Groundbreaking is scheduled for next spring, with current users moved to what is now a parking lot near the south building during construction, expected to be finished in 2013.
The idea is for the income from parking and rent from traffic courts to pay for the building over the next 20 years, Ms. McConnell said. Nearby developments have also been contributing through levies.
Robert Biancolin eyes the artist renderings warily. The co-owner of Carousel Bakery has been working in the market for more than 30 years. A new north building is desperately needed, he says, but combining the required elements in a functional design could be tricky.
"This building's going to operate with a split personality: It's going to be housing a farmers market and the antique market, and then you have court services on the top."
But "it'll definitely materialize," he said. "There's been too much work, I mean the planning process, for it not to work."