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NEWS (MAY 2017): Restored Brunswick House reopens

May 26th, 2017 · No Comments

Exhibition features musical memorabilia

PHOTO BY GEREMY BORDONARO/GLEANER NEWS: Rexall Brunswick features many nods to history and community, such as this street sign.

By Annemarie Brissenden

It was a grand opening for a grand old dame. Approximately 45 community members, music aficionados, and company dignitaries celebrated the transformation of Brunswick House from a notorious student dive bar into a boutique flagship drugstore when Rexall/Pharma Plus officially opened Rexall Brunswick on Bloor Street West late last month.

“It’s a remarkable renovation, and well beyond what would have been required in terms of scale,” said Brian Burchell, chair of the Bloor Annex BIA, who also publishes this newspaper. “The biggest thing Rexall has achieved in the Annex is bringing the building back to life.”

“What they’ve done as a chain store is adapt to the community that they’re in”—Gus Sinclair, chair, HVRA

Great care has been taken in the restoration. The limestone walls have been polished, the exterior brick restored, and barrels that used to serve as seating and serving stations have been incorporated into the decor. The keg barrel bar is now the main checkout area.

“We were committed to building and operating a store that respected and recognized the history of the Brunswick House,” explained Derek Tupling, Rexall’s director of Communications and Government Relations. “All of the original archways and chandeliers have been incorporated into the store. When we were digging back into the building, we found a window behind a wall, and it’s now a really cool feature.”

The splashy April 27 opening emphasized the building’s history as a live music venue, and featured radio broadcaster and music historian Alan Cross.

He curated the Rexall Brunswick Music Artifacts Exhibition, featuring memorabilia from the artists who had performed there including Jeff Healey, Oscar Peterson, and Etta James. Representatives from each of the donated artifacts were also on hand to explain each item’s history. The exhibition will remain on display until May 11, after which it will become part of the Studio Bell’s permanent collection at the National Music Centre in Calgary.

“The musical component was an obvious choice. Some of the most well-known and recognizable names in Canadian history have played there,” said Tupling. “We wanted to play homage to what it meant to so many people for so many years.”

Gus Sinclair, chair of the Harbord Village Residents’ Association, said he’s pretty pleased with the restoration.

“What they’ve done as a chain store is adapt to the community that they’re in,” he said. “Brunswick in its last incarnation was not conducive to a good relationship with the community. It’s no longer a blight at the top of the street.”

For Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina), that aspect — heritage restoration — was the most important.

“Rexall has taken great care to get this right, and to ensure that the building itself continues to reflect what was once there.”

The councillor added that Rexall was fully engaged with the city through the restoration process, and addressed long-standing issues with the site, like the placement of dumpsters.

“They have been good partners with us and in the community. They have been really pro-active and positive partners.”

Cressy, Sinclair, and Burchell all agree that Rexall has taken great pains to integrate seamlessly into the fabric of Bloor Street.

“It’s certainly consistent with what the city hopes to do with maintaining that scale along Bloor Street,” said Burchell.

Sinclair pointed out that “the stable built form of the street is pretty much the same as it has been for one hundred years.

“As bad as the Brunswick was, I like the idea of the building’s history being respected.”

According to Burchell, “If the choices are Rexall or Brunswick House, we certainly welcome the change. It adds more reasons to stay in the Annex, a village unto itself with an eclectic mix of businesses and dining options.”

“We’re very comfortable and very confident that we have lived up to our commitment to restoring the heritage elements and incorporating them into to the broader design of the store,” said Tupling.

—with files from Geremy Bordonaro


Correction: The photo credit in the print version made reference to a file photo. The picture was taken at the April 27 event.



NEWS: Rexall replaces Brunswick House (April 2016)

NEWS: Brunswick on the block (December 2015)



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