The speculation is over.
After several years debating the pros and cons of selling their prime piece of real estate located at the northeast corner of Laird Dr. and Wicksteed Ave., the Ricci brothers – Pat, Mike, and Mario – took the plunge this past summer and accepted a $10.5 million offer for the acre-and-a-bit of land that housed their business, Four Seasons Auto Collision.
However, the Riccis aren’t leaving the area, they’re just opening a new location in November that’s a little bit farther south on Laird Dr. It doesn’t surprise me one bit. A couple of years ago I spoke with Mario Ricci over the phone about selling the property and he was adamant about continuing to go to work.
It turns out you can have your cake and eat it too, and good for them. They’ve been a Leaside institution since 1964.
So, what’s going to happen to the property at 199 Laird Dr.? Who bought it?
When the sale closed in July The South Bayview Bulldog reported that it wasn’t Mitch Goldhar and SmartCentres. Mario Ricci confirmed this with me. An anonymous neighbourhood activist suggests the real estate company behind many of the Shoppers Drug Mart locations is rumoured to have bought the property for Loblaw Companies.
I, for one, would be extremely disappointed if that valuable corner were set aside for yet another Shoppers Drug Mart location, the third within two kilometres of one another. We can and should do better.
If you’ve got ideas about what should be built, please send me an email with your thoughts. I will let you know in the next issue what people said.
For now, however, you’re stuck with five of my ideas…all of which I’m sure some Leasiders will have a problem with.
1. Outstanding restaurant-bar
Currently, we have large restaurant/bars on two of the four corners at that awkward intersection. The Leaside Pub has been at its location for many years. The Local, a relative newbie in the ‘hood, occupies the old CIBC and has entertained sports fans for the last two summers. A Royal Bank branch sits on the southeast corner attached to the rest of the SmartCentre.
How about an import from the U.S. like the Yard House chain that specializes in good food and good drinks.
2. Medical building
A Leaside resident suggested to me that perhaps a medical building was in keeping for the area. At first, I was mystified by his suggestion. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized he’s got a point.
As far as I know there aren’t many doctors over that way. With all the new condos coming, the neighbourhood’s going to need more of everything, including medical and dental services.
3. Entertainment venue
My next idea pushes the limits of space, but if possible, would be a welcome addition for kids of all ages…adults, too. I’m talking about Dave & Buster’s, the U.S. entertainment venue that’s part pinball arcade, sports bar, and restaurant rolled into one.
With a customer mix that’s 41 per cent families and an average household income of $100,000-plus, it fits Leaside to a tee. Located mere yards from the new Laird LRT station, it’s perfectly located for guests visiting by transit.
4. Retirement home
I briefly spoke with Mario Ricci while putting my column together and he said the brothers had contemplated a number of different ideas over the years — none seriously — including a retirement home.
With the plans for two seniors’ buildings at 146-150 Laird Dr. currently up in the air, 199 Laird Dr. might be a good backup for seniors in the area. It likely could accommodate a single retirement building on the property, definitely not two.
5. Museum and event centre
Many people in the three years I’ve been writing my column have told me stories about the history of Leaside. Leaside Life itself has done its best to cover the beat, with Geoff Kettel, Allan Williams, Lorna Krawchuk, and many others lending their expertise on the subject. Our neighbourhood has a glorious past. We really ought to celebrate it.
Why not a museum and event centre?
Local restaurants, bars, even the Amsterdam Brewery, could participate in the catering activities. I’m thinking something along the lines of the Gardiner Museum down at U of T. Two stories, not too big – a wonderful home for Leaside’s past to come to life.
Too grandiose? Perhaps, but it doesn’t hurt to think big.
Frankly, I’m open to all sorts of ideas for that corner. Just not another Shoppers Drug Mart, please!