At the corner of University and Adelaide, an empty parking is slowly being converted into a luxury condo. But in my opinion, its the heritage building — known as Bishop’s Block — and the recently discovered archaeological finds that are the real gems of the site.
Bishop’s Block was constructed in 1829 and was later converted into the Adelaide Hotel in the 1850s. It was last used in the 1970s as a bar (known as the Pretzel Bell Tavern) and was one of the favourite watering holes of Maple Leaf legend/showman Eddie Shack. The second, third, and fourth floors have been inactive since the late 1940s, yet stylized wallpaper from that era still exists. Sadly, a hole in the roof that appeared in the early 1990s has contributed to the near-destruction of the top floors and has created a rather toxic environment for anyone exploring the interior of the building. The leak washed out the lime mortar that held the bricks together and rotted the wood structural timbers, causing the south faà§ade to buckle and sag to the point of near collapse. In 2007, temporary structure was erected inside and outside of the building to slow this movement.
The Bishop’s Block faà§ade will be incorporated into the 63-floor Shangri La luxury condo development slated to open in 2011. An archaeological dig, located on the old building’s east side, revealed a plethora of artifacts as well as a few cisterns. Shangri-La has agreed to showcase the archaeological treasures in the condo’s foyer when tenants move in. The dig has recently concluded, paving way for condo construction to begin.
In an interesting twist, to save the faà§ade of this heritage building it first must be torn down. This process has already begun — if you walk by University and Adelaide, you can see the building being deconstructed brick by brick. The complete failure of the structural system resulted in the building’s being unable to withstand the vibrations that would be produced during the construction of the adjacent building. The eight floors of underground parking required for the building means construction will have to go deep into the city’s underlying bedrock. This heavy construction process could create enough ground vibration to fell the fragile heritage building. Once the condo construction nears completion in 2010, Bishop’s Block will be rebuilt in its original location, adjacent to the Shangri La.