News / Toronto

Historic site at Spadina and Dundas will become a Rexall

The location has reflected the neighbourhood for almost a century.

What was once the Standard Theatre on the northeast corner of Spadina and Dundas.

Eduardo Lima / Metro

What was once the Standard Theatre on the northeast corner of Spadina and Dundas.

It's been a Yiddish playhouse, the site of riot over a memorial for Lenin, and a controversial burlesque house. Now the historic site at the northeast corner of Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street West will become a Rexall Pharma Plus.

Rexall spokesperson Derek Tupling said the company has "a strong track record when it comes to local heritage buildings," citing the recent rehabilitation of the Brunswick House. He added the company is committed to working with Heritage Toronto on the project.

The company has already posted jobs for its new location, which is just south of another Rexall at Spadina Avenue and College Street. Tupling was unable to give a timeline on the site, but described it as being in early stages.

Rexall will only take the ground floor, which is about 7,000 square feet. The company is also looking at replicating exterior signage for what used to be a pharmacy onsite, and in recognition of Chinatown, will install their first bilingual signs in English and traditional Chinese.

The three-storey building was most recently a Royal Bank, but throughout its 95-year history it has been a famous theatre, a concert venue and burlesque house.

After being financed through shares sold to the local community, the Standard Theatre at 285 Spadina Ave. opened to great enthusiasm in August 1922. Designed by the prolific architect Benjamin Brown, the theatre quickly became a cultural and political hotspot for Toronto's burgeoning secular Jewish community. It played host in the 1920s and '30s to comedy acts, Shakespearean plays and concerts.

By the 1960s and 70s it was a racy burlesque house that sometimes offended Toronto the Good's precious sensibilities. The building was later renamed the Mandarin and reflected the neighbourhood's evolution into Chinatown, before it became a bank.

It earned heritage designation in 2007 for its "abstracted classical detailing" and general cultural value, according to the city.

Kaitlin Wainwright of Heritage Toronto says she would like the building's community-based roots to continue. "I would hope that part of this renovation is creating a space where the community not only goes for goods and services, but also where they see themselves reflected," she said.

Major chain stores have had an increasingly important role in preserving Toronto's built heritage. These companies are often able to afford the higher rents, undertake a major renovation, and make use of the large square footage.

Wainwright says this unique position means chain stores have a civic responsibility.

"The private sector absolutely has a role to play" when it comes to heritage conservation, she says. This idea isn't new, she adds.

"Since we started building things in Toronto [heritage preservation] has been a sticking point and a negotiating point."

More on