South of the prominent Yonge and Bloor intersection, the "Historic Yonge Street" corridor was recently adopted as a Heritage Conservation District by Toronto City Council. Stretching from Bloor to College, the HCD plan was drafted to help protect the area's distinct architectural character, with 'over-cladding' and excessive signage cited as problematic tendencies in the neighbourhood: often the architectural character of Yonge Street's older buildings is hidden behind new additions, significantly altering the area's character.

A map of the Yonge Street HCD, image courtesy of the City of Toronto

At the southwest corner of Yonge and Charles, the Shoppers Drug Mart at 728 Yonge Street provides an informative example of the area's evolving approach to heritage preservation. Designed by G.W. Gouinlock, the Richardsonian Romanesque 'Robert Barron Building' was completed in 1899, with an addition finished in 1902. (A more detailed historical overview is provided in the City of Toronto's 2015 Heritage Report).

The building as it appears now, image by UT Forum contributor Benito

Long the site of Barron's grocery store (below), the building eventually came to house a Coles bookstore in 1947, and then a Shoppers Drug Mart in the 1990s. As seen above, the building's brick exterior is now monochromatically painted, while heavy red signage draws the eye away from the upper levels. 

The building as depicted in an 1889 edition of 'The Canadian Grocer,' image courtesy of the City of Toronto

With a restoration and expansion of the property now underway, however, the heritage structure will become a much more conspicuous part of the streetscape. Designed by Brook McIlroy—with heritage consultation from ERA Architects—the revitalized 3-storey building will be joined by Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) additions to its south and west. 

A rendering of the completed project, image courtesy of Brook McIlroy

While the building's north and east elevations will be restored, the south and west elevations will be demolished to make way for an aesthetically subdued expansion. The understated additions are designed to highlight the Robert Barron Building's character, and drawings prepared by ERA Architects also reveal comparatively minimized signage—as well as potentially restored cornicing—deferring visual prominence to the structure above. 

An architectural drawing depicting the new signage, image courtesy of ERA Architects

We will keep you updated as the new structure takes shape. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts about the project by leaving a comment in the space below this page, or by joining in the ongoing conversation on our Forum

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