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Historic buildings being demolished; London Convention Centre hopes to expand its location

Construction is taking place at the corner of Wellington Street and York Street as the London Convention Center looks to expand.
Construction is taking place at the corner of Wellington Street and York Street as the London Convention Center looks to expand. Jaclyn Carbone / 980 CFPL

Two historic buildings sitting at the heart of downtown London are being demolished after city council approved a $350,000 contract at the beginning of the year.

In 2016, council received reports that both buildings at 340 Wellington St. and 280 York St. needed repairs.

Lori Da Silva, London Convention Centre general manager and CEO, tells 980 CFPL the buildings are tired and decaying, and their removal is a positive move.

“We are very excited to see something attractive and appealing to bring the corner back to life,” Da Silva said.

READ MORE: New report says London Convention Centre is a money maker for the city

The area is a major gateway into the core of the city, and in light of the 2019 JUNO awards, construction should be done fairly quickly as it will drive an influx of people into the forest city.

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“It’s a great opportunity to present our best foot forward, and more or less putting the welcome mat out for all the visitors that will be in the city over that time,” Da Silva said.

“Knowing that it is a very well-broadcast event, we want to make sure that the city looks great.”

The Convention Centre is interested in using the building to expand their infrastructure. One of their major problems is complaints about the narrow foyer space in their ballroom.

“You have got two escalators sort of dumping people onto that level and it is very tight and hard to maneuver. Clients have told us they would ideally love to see us expand what we refer to as crushed space,” Da Silva said.

The expansion would enable the centre to host bigger groups in the ballroom. Their current space limits the number of people that can attend an event including chamber of commerce, breakfast with the mayor and business achievement awards.

“You are putting 1,200 people in there and we can continue to grow that if there was a place to have the reception,” Da Silva said.

READ MORE: Downtown core construction to pave way for London’s future

When the buildings are demolished this summer, the west side of the convention centre will be exposed.

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Da Silva says they will be utilizing the space by putting up a very large electronic sign along York and Wellington streets which will have great visibility for people in the area.

Two years ago, the Convention Centre underwent a $5-million renovation project, and received funding from the federal development corporation.

Da Silva says the centre is paying off a $2-million loan from the city which was used in the renovation.

The Wellington Street building was formerly used to host shows including the Second City and Yuk Yuk’s comedy clubs as well as restaurants including Whittingtons, Pickwicks pub, Sultan’s Court and APK Live.