TORONTO – The historic Guild Inn will be getting a much needed facelift, after years of abandonment.
Construction on the site begins Thursday with a groundbreaking hosted by Mayor John Tory and Councillor Paul Ainslie.
“I remember coming here many years ago when it was open,” Tory said.
“It has taken a long time – too long – but better late than never that we are going to have an exciting renewal of this place. The Guild Inn has a lot of history.”
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Developer Dynamic Hospitality and Entertainment has plans to convert the space into a restaurant and build a banquet hall with an outdoor pavilion.
“All we’ve heard about is how great this space was,” said Piero Suppa, co-founder for Dynamic Hospitality and Entertainment.
“We were interested in how we could get that space back to what it was but at the same time add a modern touch to it.”
The bistro-style restaurant will accommodate a maximum of 800 people and there will be 292 spots for free on-site parking.
The city will also be investing $6 million into the surrounding estates.
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“This is an 88-acre park so it’s not just the main building,” said Ainslie.
“There is an area around it called the culture precinct which the city has earmarked close to $6 million for putting in artist studios and galleries.”
In 2009, Centennial College received approval from the city to demolish the hotel tower. It wasn’t until 2011 that the college submitted a proposal to include condominium developments, which was rejected.
“Finally we are going to have some official shovels in the ground, showing the work to revitalize the old Guild Inn is going ahead,” said John Mason, president of Friends of Guild Park and Gardens.
“There have been lots of false starts and major concerns from the thousands of people that use and love Guild Park and have wonderful vibrant memories of the park.”
Mason added this is the first step in a substantial journey to revitalize the park.
“What we are looking forward to is having community input into the future of the park to make sure the park facilities are revitalized and upgraded to the quality people recall … when this was a real destination site,” he said.
But a number of concerns have been brought up through the planning and development process.
The community organization wants to make sure there is an overall plan for the park with opportunity for residents to provide input in the future.
Mason added this has been a challenge because a lot of decisions are being made without ongoing public consultation.
“That’s not a best practice and we would like to see groups of people who use the park welcomed to the table in a meaningful and ongoing way,” he said.
Dynamic will be working with the city to find ways to display memorabilia collected from the previous Guild Inn operations.
The contract was award to Dynamic after Guildwood residents made an attempt to stop the city from cutting trees down in the park.
The city began removing trees in Jan. 2014 after the emerald ash borer infested many of the existing trees.
The project is expecting to be completed before the end of 2016.
History of Guild Inn
– 1914 The Toronto landmark was built in for the wealthy military family of Colonel Harold Bickford
– 1932 The space was converted into an arts and crafts space, created by Rosa and Spencer Clark, called the Guild of All Arts
– 1978 The Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority purchased the property and continued it continued to operate as an Inn
– 2001 Guild Inn closes its doors for hotel and restaurant operations
– 2006 ArtScape brought a proposal forward for the development of Guild Inn
– 2008 Centennial College proposal brought forward, ArtScape proposal scrapped
– 2011 New proposal to add condominium development is rejected
– 2013 Councillor Paul Ainslie and Guild Park Advisory Committee draft a Request for Proposal for a restaurant and hospitality service in Guild Inn
– 2014 Dynamic Hospitality and Entertainment is awarded contract