Do you have fond memories of Markham St.? Taken a liking to Lakeshore Blvd? Yearn for your days living on Yorkville Ave.?
If you've ever wanted to own a piece of Toronto's streetscape, Councillor Adam Vaughan has an idea for you.
At Tuesday's council meeting, Vaughan is putting forward a motion to create a program that would allow citizens to buy decommissioned Toronto street signs for $20 each.
He says he got the idea when he saw an old Toronto streetcar scroll being sold in a Vancouver antique shop for $1000. Clearly nostalgia for old Toronto is lucrative these days.
"Certain streets and certain neighbourhoods, certain locations have a real caché with people and speak to the history of the city," Vaughan says. "Folks love Toronto. Why wouldn't they want to put up a Queen St. sign [on their wall]?"
"I don't expect thousands of people to line up, but when you see one sign going down, people might say, ‘I grew up on that street.'"
Much to the dismay of Toronto history buffs, the city began replacing its various old signs with a standard design in 2009 (neighbourhoods deemed to have heritage value were given an exemption). While the new blue-and-white versions are high on visibility, they're low on charm, particularly compared to the classic "acorn" design, which is so beloved it has its own Facebook page.
There's no city-wide replacement program, but crews from transportation services swap out between 2,000 and 2,500 signs a year as they fall into disrepair, and right now they all go to the scrap heap. Instead, Vaughan wants them stored for one year and made available for order by phone and via the city's website. Those that aren't sold once the year is up would be recycled as usual. At $20 a pop, he estimates the city would break even on the cost of collecting and storing the signs.
To prevent confusion, purchasers would sign a waiver promising not to display the signs on city streets.
The program would be a first for Toronto, but Ottawa has been selling its old street signs since 2001 when the amalgamation of 11 different municipalities forced the new megacity to rename many streets to prevent duplicates. Ottawans jumped at the chance to own souvenirs of roads that were being wiped from the map.
While Vaughan says residents have expressed interest in the idea, he's not overly optimistic it will get council approval. Because his motion is a late addition, it will require a two-thirds majority just to get on Tuesday's agenda. If it doesn't, it will be referred back to the public works committee, which could bury the idea indefinitely.
If it does win support however, Vaughan says there's one street sign he'd consider snatching up himself and giving to the mayor as commemoration of the recent transit wars at City Hall.
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