Toronto

St. Lawrence Market tenants wonder what their future holds with planned renovation

Excavators broke ground this week to start construction on the new St. Lawrence Market North building, but tenants on the south side of the market are wondering what the next step is for their businesses as the city finishes up design plans for the lower level.

First round of designs for revamp of lower level 90% complete, city says

Shovels hit the ground in early July on a long-awaited redevelopment of St. Lawrence Market's North Market Building, but tenants inside aren't totally clear on what's happening with the redesign of the lower level of the market south of Front Street. (Talia Ricci / CBC )

After a decade of running Manotas Organics & Fine Foods in the lower level of St. Lawrence Market, Nancy Manotas says she feels protective of the historic building.

"I feel we are the market keepers, at least that is my personal opinion," Manotas says.

Shovels hit the ground this week in the long-awaited construction of the new North Building at the city-owned St. Lawrence Market, a process that's been delayed partly by the archeological dig on the site that's uncovered many historic artifacts.

But as these changes slowly start to come to life outside, tenants on the south side like Manotas are wondering what's in store for their businesses. The city is in the process of finishing up design plans for the lower level of the market after years of consultations.

The idea of modernizing the facility, which has been standing since 1836, and not knowing exactly when it'll happen, isn't sitting well with Manotas.

Nancy Manotis, owner of Manotas Organics & Fine Foods, wants to see the historical feeling of the St. Lawrence Market building maintained. (Greg Bruce / CBC)

"Maybe clean it up and fix the air conditioning, but try to maintain the original feeling of the market," Manotas says.

"From our perspective we feel a little bit hesitant and concerned, of course."

No concrete timeline

Samantha Wiles, communications supervisor with St. Lawrence Market, says the completion date of the new north-side building is set for spring 2022, but it's too early in the process to say when construction will even begin on the lower level redesign project south of Front Street.

"We are in the early stages of design development for the lower level redesign," she said, adding the new design will "really bring the features of the lower level to match the same as the upper level," and be a little easier to navigate.

Samantha Wiles, communications supervisor with St. Lawrence Market, says the city is always looking at ways to improve the market. (Talia Ricci / CBC)

Wiles says the city is about 90 per cent complete with the first round of design plans, and the next step is having city staff go through a business case to evaluate the feasibility of the project. 

As of now, she says, there's no tentative timeline for when the project will be completed, and lease renewal will be business as usual until they are able to communicate more concrete plans with the tenants. 

The city says the first design plans are being revised partly to include feedback from tenants and the public. (Talia Ricci / CBC )

It hasn't been determined if there will be a temporary space the lower level tenants can occupy while the renovations take place. 

"That would be part of the determination once we figure out if the project is going to move forward." 

The drawings are being finalized with the input from the public and feedback from tenants.

'Every historic business has to evolve'

For around 15 years, Urs Aeby has been making and selling sweet and savoury condiments at A Bisket A Basket. He says while the city hasn't been totally transparent about timelines, the process has been informative.

"Management has invited us and made several presentations," Aeby says.

"More or less, we have an idea of what the scope of the work will be."

Urs Aeby runs a shop called A Bisket A Basket and says the market could use an upgrade, but has no idea what's in store for his business. (Talia Ricci / CBC )

Unknowns aside, the business owner is ready to see some changes at the market.

"Every historic business has to evolve with the time and adjust to customer's needs," he says.

"That's St Lawrence Market. People don't come with horse and buggies anymore."

He's ready to give the management a shot at making it better.

"The issues are complex and in fairness to management we have to give them the chance to do their jobs."

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