April 17, 2004
by Canadian Architect
It is all but official, but Maple Leaf Gardens may turn into a new super Loblaw after months of uncertainty.
It was only in late December when Loblaw pulled out of a potential deal to purchase Maple Leaf Gardens on Carlton Street in Toronto. For years, rumours had been circulating as to what will become of this important landmark to generations of hockey fans. At one point, Home Depot Canada had expressed an interest in converting the building and turning the old arena into the mother-of-all home-improvement stores, complete with a condominium development. At present, Maple Leaf Gardens sits empty.
According to a story published in Saturday’s Globe and Mail, Loblaw has a tentative deal with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. to buy the stadium and convert it into one of its latest generation jumbo-sized stores. In addition to groceries, the retailer would sell electronics and financial services. Loblaw would build an underground parking facility and include a variety of retail outlets within and surrounding the grocery store, thus animating what is now a severely underutilized area of the city.
A formal announcement is expected in June, but Loblaw spokesman Geoffrey Wilson was quoted in the Globe today as noting that "[We’ve] got the site locked up. They can’t go to anybody else."
Indeed, the architectural community will wait with anticipation, along with the many hockey fans (and interested business partners) as to what will become of this important corner site of the city. This retail conversion could very well become a very interesting project (and opportunity) with a particular and dynamic architectural outcome.