The rebirth of Lilley’s Corner, the gateway to Old East Village, is nearing completion.
William Older bought the rundown heritage property at Adelaide and Dundas Street last year and has been working for months to restore the block of buildings and bring them back to life.
The centrepiece has been Baker’s Dozen, an arts incubator in a section of the building that once housed Chapman’s Bakery but has been vacant for almost 20 years.
The front portion of the building has already been turned into a foyer with funky-retro décor installed by Back to the Fuschia, a business located farther east on Dundas St.
Older said the concept behind Lilley’s Corner complements entertainment venues like Aeolian Hall to give Old East Village an atmosphere similar to Toronto’s Queen’s Street West.
“I am just waiting for my awnings to arrive. The front is going to look fantastic,” said Older, a British immigrant who moved to London five years ago.
Earlier this month the rear of the building, fronting on Marshall Street got an artistic makeover with a new mural painted by CISV Peace bus, a youth group travelling across Canada. The group will be back to complete the mural next week.
Older has installed 20 market-style stalls in the rear portion of Baker’s Dozen and seven have already been rented to a variety of artists and businesses including a record vendor, a jewelry maker, a mosaic artist, hip-hop apparel outlet and a family that does a variety of arts including woodworking, crocheting and silk screening. Some of the shops will go into operation next week.
Older is also turning one space into a gallery to allow arts students from H. B. Beal to display their work.
Another area will be devoted to children and will be used for a homework club, after-school program and for kids’ parties.
Around the corner in a unit facing on Adelaide Street, Rob Dundas is putting the finishes touches on Dundas and Sons, a new craft brewery.
The sign on the exterior of Lilley’s Corner on Dundas Street in Old East Village on Friday July 28, 2017. (File photo)
One big job was completed last week when an air conditioner was hoisted onto the roof building with a crane, and fermenting tanks imported from Italy will be installed soon.
He has received conditional approval of his liquor licence and hopes to be open by the end of August.
Dundas is installing a storefront lounge and bar and his brewery will become a stop on the PedalPub tour that started this spring in Old East London.
Dundas has been brewing beer at home for years and has been looking for the right opportunity for years and found it in Old East.
“This area is up and coming. It’s getting revitalized . . . I saw this place and in got the feeling in my gut ‘This will work,” he said.
He said development incentives offered by the city were crucial in getting the brewery established.
The rear unit backing onto Marshal Street is now occupied by a metal and glass shop.
The space just north of Dundas and Sons is occupied by VibraFusionLab, which creates art from music, sounds, light and tactile media.
Older eventually plans to gut and rebuild the residential space on the second floor, which has been vacant for about 30 years.
A rusty, old sign for the long-gone Hudson’s department store, still attached to the building, will be restored as a treasured relic.
A business block in East London as it appeared in 1885. This area was known for years as Lilley’s Corner. (London Free Press files)
The History of Lilley’s Corner
Southeast corner of Adelaide and Dundas Streets, originally located just inside the border of London East, an industrial municipality that was amalgamated into London in 1885.
Charles Lilley operated grocery store and the Crown Hotel at the site in 1869.
In 1871, he built a two-storey block on the corner, and five additional brick stores on Adelaide Street in the next two years.
It is a mystery that the inscription on the corner of the Lilley Block reads “1867,” since there were no buildings on the site at that date.
Lilley opened the East London post office in the building in 1872.
He became Mayor of East London in 1884 and helped negotiate amalgamation with the City of London in 1885, later serving as a city alderman.