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The ‘Toronto’ sign costs a fortune to maintain, so the city wants to build a better one
August 30, 2019
Temur Durrani

City officials are looking to rebuild the “iconic” Toronto sign in Nathan Phillips Square after four years of wear and tear since its installation.

The original sign, installed in 2015, was only meant to last a few weeks, but the it has since become a Toronto landmark, as scores of residents and tourists visit it every day.

This has prompted the city to make it a more permanent fixture as of next week.

“The sign’s definitely become symbolic of Toronto,” said city spokesperson Brad Ross in an interview.

“It’s been a visual backdrop for global media coverage of major events like the Raptors parade, and for hundreds of charities, community festivals, days of significance and times of mourning.”

Next week, city staff are issuing a Request for Proposal to begin a process to secure “a new, more durable” sign, according to a statement issued Thursday.

“Staff determined that, rather than paying for further, ongoing repairs and maintenance of the temporary structure, the city should invest in the construction of a new sign,” said the statement.

Ross said it cost the city $400,000 to maintain the sign since it was first installed. He said it wasn’t water resistant and the lighting infrastructure inside the sign needs upgrades.

If the proposal goes through, reserve funds will be used to pay for the new sign and existing budgets will be used to cover the continuing costs of maintenance following the revamp.

Ross said “we won’t know exactly how much the new sign will cost” until the city’s Request for Proposal is approved.

“It’ll definitely be worth it, though,” he said.

“It really is iconic.”

The sign may be removed or inaccessible for “a short period of time,” depending on what proposal is approved, city spokesperson Andrea Gonsalves said.

“Ideally, we would be looking to work with whoever the successful partner is to minimize the time as much as possible, but we can't really provide any detailed estimate as to how long that might be," said Gonsalves.

According to Tourism Toronto’s visitor survey, the Toronto sign was one of the top three most visited attractions in the city, ranking just behind mainstays, such as the CN Tower and the Eaton Centre.

“A city’s visual icons are vital in marketing a destination,” said Tourism Toronto executive, Andrew Weir, in a news release.

The city said more than 122 million social media impressions were tracked for the sign within its first six months. “It is consistently ranked as one of the most instagrammable spots in the city,” the release noted.

“I don’t think anyone could imagine Nathan Phillips Square without the Toronto Sign now,” said Mayor John Tory in a statement.

City staff hope to have a new sign installed by the end of the year, just in time for New Year’s celebrations.