Universal Music Canada is moving to downtown's hip, red brick Liberty Village neighbourhood from its uptown office complex in North York.
Canada’s largest record label made that announcement at a media event in the 'Village' yesterday, directly opposite the construction site at 80 Atlantic Ave that is scheduled to become UMC’s new headquarters in late 2018.
Making the announcement in the course of an eloquent address to those assembled at Lamport Stadium Park was Jeffrey Remedios, President and CEO, Universal Music Canada.
On hand was Toronto Mayor John Tory, who took the opportunity to stress once more that the City recognizes the major economic and social impact the music industry has in Toronto.
Also spied at the auspicious event were Toronto City Councillor Josh Colle, a leading proponent of Toronto as a ‘music city,’ Music Canada President Graham Henderson, and Toronto Music Sector Development Officer Mike Tanner.
Serving as MC was Universal A&R exec (and noted rapper) Kardinal Offishall, while Toronto-based female rockers and recent Universal signing The Beaches performed one high-energy song.
Many UMC staffers were on hand, and Remedios explained after the event that the employees “are very excited about the move. A few of them even have countdown calendars!”
The building will house a staff currently comprising 150 people, including 12 in the A&R department, the country's largest.
“The working title is that this will be a media centre that will exist in a combination of recording facilities, a live music events space, retail space and beyond,” says Remedios.
He adds that the intention is to move in by fall 2018. "We are a little at the mercy of the developers on this, but that is the plan.”
Remedios acknowledges that the project is definitely a work in progress. “The key now is to land exactly what it is going to be. We have taken a significant amount of space in order to build this. The entire retail level of the building is almost 8000 sq, feet, plus we have the rest of the building.”
To Remedios, "our new home will be so much more than a record label’s office. 80 Atlantic will be the next phase in the growth and evolution of our city’s music community as we build greater resources and support for artists, enabling them to fully refine their craft at home rather than resorting to exporting it raw for others to find before bringing it to market."
"This is a shift for us on many fronts, starting from the physical uprooting of our longterm home in the northeast to this new home downtown, for a building that will serve in ways no other Canadian record label does, as we transition from a music company to a music-focused media company."
The developer partnering with Universal is Hullmark Developments. "They had a real vision for what the building could be. It could have gone in a number of different directions, but we started to speak to them very early at that stage. That helped with concessions in the design so it would work with our vision.”
Universal Music Canada has long been based in the Victoria Park area of northeastern Toronto, but relocation to the hip and booming downtown Liberty Village district clearly fits in with its ongoing evolution as a diversified entertainment company.
Remedios notes that “we really wanted to find the right building and the right partner in the right neighbourhood. We could have chosen a number of neighbourhoods but we needed to be somewhere culturally relevant, and the stars aligned.”
Liberty Village is currently home to a growing number of music firms and new media companies, including Vice, Twitter, Music Canada, radio stations (Zoomer, Indie88, JazzFM, Classical 96) and booking and management agencies.
The area previously housed two other major record labels, BMG Canada and EMI Music Canada, and, much earlier, Attic Records, at 102 Atlantic Ave.
The proposed design of the new building is impressive. The Hullmark website states that “80 Atlantic is Toronto’s first new timber-frame commercial building to be built in a generation. Integrating natural and high-performance materials, it sets a new standard of development, offering high-design work environments and collaborative spaces.”
Remedios' prediction? "This is going to be a rock star of a building."