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Rexall to take over Brunswick House

March 23rd, 2016 · No Comments

Pharmacy drugstore chain says it will respect building’s heritage

By Annemarie Brissenden

The Brunswick House has a new tenant.

Rexall, a pharmacy drugstore chain, will be taking over the first floor of the building at 481 Bloor St. W., confirmed landlord Larry Sdao. The betting lounge on the upper floors will be moving out, and Sdao said the second and third floors will be available to lease.

“We are looking forward to becoming part of the community”—Derek Tupling, Rexall spokesperson

“We are excited to be able to come into the Annex neighbourhood,” said Derek Tupling, director of communications and government relations for Rexall.

The Brunswick House has long been a flashpoint in the neighbourhood.

Local residents say the student dive bar — which Ottawa-based nightclub promoter Abbis Mahmoud has operated through his Dreammind Entertainment Group since 2005 — was a blight on the area that was responsible for late night noise, drunken scuffles, and crime.

In November last year, Sdao announced that he would only renew Mahmoud’s lease on a month-to-month basis, and that he was actively seeking a new tenant. Boston Pizza explored opening a sports bar and restaurant in the space, but backed away after community members objected to the possibility of a patio and expressed concerns about whether the chain would mesh with the unique fabric of the street.

Tupling said Rexall is keenly aware of the community’s attachment to the building, and that his company plans to reach out to local residents’ and business associations right from the outset.

“We are looking forward to becoming part of the community,” he said, noting that pharmacies are the face of healthcare in the community, and provide quick access to high quality services.

Likening the future Brunswick House location to the chain’s other urban outposts at Queen Street West and University Avenue; Church and Front streets; and, College Street and Spadina Avenue, Tupling said Rexall was attracted to the site because it is in an urban community with high foot traffic.

To “create a flagship location that embraces the entire community”, Tupling said Rexall is doing something it has never done before: it is bringing in an expert to help build the site.

“Our intention is to respect and maintain as much of the building’s historical and architectural integrity as possible.”

Sdao said that is what sold him on Rexall.

“They have a genuine approach, and want to respect the heritage, design, and what the building has been for a long time.”

Neither Sdao, nor Tupling would speculate on when the store would be open for business; they both pointed out that renovations to the heritage building would take time.

“Rexall and I, we want to do it right,” explained Sdao. “These projects don’t happen overnight.”

“There’s some things in the building that have gotten long in the tooth, so to speak, and we want to look at opportunities to revitalize and incorporate those into the design of the store,” Tupling added. “We want to make sure that when the doors open, everyone is as happy as much as possible with the result.”

Tags: Annex · News