West Block – The Rebirth of a Toronto Neighbourhood.

Everything old is new again. Across the street from Toronto’s other airport, lies an old, derelict 4-acre parcel of land with an abandoned warehouse on it. In a condo-crazed city as dense as Toronto is, it’s not often you find a neglected piece of property this large in its core.

The property, owned by Canadian retail giant Loblaws, was once home to its original warehouse and head office. The warehouse has actually been there longer than the Gardiner Expressway that flows above it.  It opened in 1928 and was considered one of the most innovative offices and warehouses of its time. Employees even had their own bowling alley and an auditorium for performing shows and plays (take that Google).

In 1947 the Weston family purchased Loblaws and corporate headquarters remained there until the 1970s. Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank moved in until 2000. For 16 years the area has been lifeless, until now. Plans are under way to completely revitalize the area and to create a place where Torontonians, can live, shop, eat or just hangout. A new city square will be featured as part of the larger Under the Gardiner initiative. Amazing public spaces that will host events including a proposed outdoor theatre. Almost 100,000 sq. ft of retail space (featuring a Loblaws, restaurants, cafes) will be a house in the intricately reconstructed warehouse space. Each brick would be removed, numbered and rebuilt exactly as they were. As well, sparkling new condo towers will soar above housing thousands of new residents.

Branding an old, forgotten part of town would be a challenge. Promising a bright future without anything tangible to prove it is a tough sell. Imagining a great future neighbourhood requires vision and faith – two things that are in short supply in today’s consumer market. We also were very conscious of the city’s “fatigue” with all of the new construction happening across the city.

For our positioning insight, we looked to the past: Life didn’t exist in this area of Toronto in the early 1900s. The Loblaw Groceteria Ltd building was one of the first constructed on reclaimed land at the west end of Toronto in 1927. It brought food, people and commerce together. Time has passed and life again doesn’t exist in this area. Loblaws is doing it all over again – bringing food, people and commerce together.

The Positioning: “The Rebirth of a Toronto Original”. With history as our guide, we didn’t need to feign authenticity. It was inherent. Quite a coup for a nascent brand. The personality and tone of the brand was based on 3 pillars: Historic. Urban. Industrial. The name West Block was born. A moniker that was a nod to the past while acting as hipper nickname that could be adopted by Torontonians as a place to hang out.

The brand is new. The place is new. The history is rich and the future is bright. Keep an eye out for this up and coming part of Toronto. It’s pretty cool to be a part of history in the making.