The City of Toronto is insisting construction of the new St. Lawrence Market North building is on schedule for completion in 2022, but the city's move to extend the life of the temporary structure that's standing in for it is raising concerns that there's yet another delay in the works.
The city says it is extending the bylaw authorizing the use of the tent at 125 The Esplanade, which serves as a temporary location for the weekly farmers' market, so it can stay up until 2023, "by which time the new North Market building at 92 Front Street East, which is currently under construction, is expected to be complete."
City spokesman Bruce Hawkins says construction, so far, is on schedule for completion in the spring of 2022, but he adds that the novel coronavirus has added some uncertainty.
"Work is progressing at reduced productivity levels due to the impact of COVID-19. As a result, the temporary use zoning bylaw for the temporary building at 125 The Esplanade has been extended to October 2023 simply as a precautionary measure until the full impact of the delay is known."
The project to replace the previous building at the northwest corner of Jarvis Street and Front Street East, which was built in 1968 and demolished in 2015, has already been plagued with delays and increasing costs. Last year, the city approved an additional $14 million, bringing the project's total budget up to $116.3 million.
The new building will feature a market, retail space, a café and an events area on the ground floor, with provincial courts and a seniors' centre on the upper floors. There will also be an underground parking garage beneath with 250 spots.
Suzanne Kavanagh, chair of the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association's development committee, has told CBC News she's heard in meetings that the building definitely won't be ready on schedule.
"I think what we are expecting now is the farmers and the courts tenants — I'm expecting them now in 2023," said Kavanagh, a volunteer with the non-profit corporation that represents the more than 30,000 people in the area around St Lawrence Market.
She says it's been a long saga to get the building on track, with a lengthy archeological assessment and then re-budgeting and re-tendering before construction could continue.
Hawkins, however, insists there's no plan for a further delay.
"The project, awarded to The Buttcon Limited/The Atlas Corporation Joint Venture, remains within the current approved budget of $116.3 million and the current timeline, which is and always has been, completion in the spring of 2022."
But at least one business owner inside the market building on the south side of Front Street East is worried the opening date for the north building could be delayed again.
"It would not be good. It would add more insecurity," said Effie Tziamouranis, owner of Paddington's Pump tavern and the secretary of the tenants' association for the market, adding another delay would mean more complications as she deals with the continuing effects of COVID-19.
"Obviously, now we're already facing a great deal of uncertainty, so if something like this goes through, it's going to impact us," she said.
She adds that she is waiting to hear about what her back rent will be. She estimates her business was down 85 per cent, but has recovered somewhat since reopening her dining area inside the tavern.
"The longer construction takes the more disruptive for us, she said.
During the initial excavation, archeologists found evidence of the markets on the site dating back to 1831, 1851 and 1904. They also found evidence of market activities on the location as early as 1803.
Leo and Beatrice Dileo live in the area and are market regulars. They say the delays are understandable when dealing with such a significant site.
"I think most people are patient and understanding and with the archaeological stuff it's even better," said Leo Dileo.
"You know they found some history, which will educate Torontonians even more."