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Maple Leaf Gardens project delayed

No Loblaws superstore for a while

The long-awaited conversion of historic Maple Leaf Gardens into a Loblaws superstore appears to be on hold.

According to Onofrio Marcello, Loblaws’ senior director of engineering and construction, a combination of internal problems and new management has delayed the project.

“We’ve had a real change in power,” says Marcello. “The new CEO is Galen Weston Jr. We haven’t really decided with the new management what the new vision for Maple Leaf Gardens will be.”

Marcello says the company has also decided to focus on solving internal problems first.

“We’ve had some problems with our distribution network which we had to fix first,” he says. “To stick a flag on Maple Leaf Gardens and say, ‘Here we are,’ when we’re going through these changes would be strange.

“It would have been great to actually start this right now but when you’re planning your budget, sometimes the furnace breaks down and you have to fix that first.”

And Marcello also said that the original design for the superstore may be changed, which, because the Gardens is an historic building, would require new permits.

“It might be just a matter of the fixtures or where we’re putting the various departments,” he says.

Marcello referred further questions to Elizabeth Margles, Loblaws’ vice-president of public relations, saying Margles would issue an official statement. Margles did not return phone calls or release any statement.

And CTV news reported on Nov 21 that the renovation would be delayed by four to six months because of Loblaws’ financial situation.

Profits for Loblaw Companies Inc were down 20 per cent in this year’s third quarter, which has affected the plans, CTV reported. CTV could not obtain an interview with a Loblaws official.

Neither does Loblaws appear to have officially informed anybody else of where things stand. The office of Kyle Rae, the city councillor whose ward includes the Gardens, knew nothing of the project’s status. And Heritage Toronto — which is involved in the design of the project because of the Gardens’ historic status — is also in the dark about where things stand.

Loblaws purchased the Gardens in 2004 after owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment moved the Maple Leafs hockey team to the Air Canada Centre in 1999. Toronto city council approved Loblaws’ application to convert the building in 2004.