Empress Hotel land grab on track, hearing requested

Ryerson is one bureaucratic step closer in its quest to score the lot that housed the old Empress Hotel, despite the owner’s insistence on keeping it.

A year after submitting an application to expropriate the land at 335 Yonge St., owned by the Lalani Group, the university has requested a hearing date that would determine if the issue gets voted on by the city.

Julia Shin Doi, Ryerson’s general counsel and secretary of the Board of Governors, said that in September, the school formally requested a date from Vic Freidin, the application’s chief inquiry officer.

Freidin, who was appointed in January 2013, will determine if the proposed expropriation is fair. After he reviews Ryerson’s application to lay claim to the land for the purpose of city and university advancement, he’ll submit a report of his findings to city staff.

“We’re just trying to work that out in terms of scheduling, to try and get an early date,” Shin Doi said. “We would like it as soon as possible.”

The request for a date comes almost 10 months after the Lalani Group asked for a “hearing of necessity,” in which it would have defended itself against the expropriation process.

The meeting was delayed so that the two parties could reach a resolution — or a price — but that didn’t happen.

A representative at retail broker CBRE said the land has “intrinsic” value for the owners and potential commercial retailers.

“Everyone wants the lot. It’s one of the (most) prime pieces of real estate in Canada right now,” he said. “However, the owner … the Lalani Group, the Lalani trust fund, they have no interest at all in selling.”

CBRE is advertising a “flagship retail opportunity” at 335 Yonge St. for the Lalani Group.

According to a brochure of the proposed project, concept plans for the property include anything from “four storeys of retail only” to “as much as four levels of retail with up to 30 floors of residential condominium units above.

The representative said everything in the brochure was just a concept and is subject to change.

CBRE is also representing Ryerson’s retail spots in the SLC across the street.

Earlier steps in the expropriation process included advertising legal notice in a local newspaper for three weeks — a requirement Ryerson met with an advertisement in the Toronto Star’s classifieds in October 2012.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said that Tribute Communities was the developer of the 335 Yonge St. site and that Zeidler Partnership Architects was the architect. This is not the case. The information was provided by CBRE and later retracted. The Ryersonian regrets the error.

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