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A Model for How to Transform a Cherished Sports Landmark

The decade-long transformation of Toronto's historic Maple Leaf Gardens into a new centerpiece for its neighborhood may serve as a model for one of the trickiest types of adaptive reuse, reports Mark Byrnes.
January 18, 2013, 12pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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From Detroit's Tiger Stadium to Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, cities have struggled with how to repurpose the hallowed grounds once home to championship sports franchises and countless civic memories. The fact that Toronto chose to reuse, rather than demolish, its famed Maple Leaf Gardens when the city's hockey team decamped for a new arena was a victory in itself. However, now that the arena has begun its second act as a grocery store and collegiate athletic center, among other things, it is benefiting its neighborhood in entirely different ways.

"When the Toronto hockey team played there, 'the building was less of an anchor for the neighborhood because it was generally only in use in the evenings,' says Toronto blogger Derek Flack."

"Now," explains Byrnes, "the 85,000-square foot grocery store (as well as a liquor store, clothing outlet, and health clinic) give a part of downtown a much needed supermarket, one the neighborhood had been waiting for since Loblaw Companies first purchased the building in 2004."

"Almost untouched for a decade, the engineering and legal complications are no longer. Now, the Gardens is back to being an important part of the everyday life in Toronto."

"'It’s evident when you walk along Carlton Street," says Flack. "Pedestrian traffic has increased greatly thanks to the sprawling site being in nearly constant use. Now with a steady stream of students heading to the gym and shoppers going about their daily business, the area feels like it's never been healthier.'"

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Published on Friday, January 18, 2013 in The Atlantic Cities
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