Dynamic Hospitality and Entertainment is the private partner selected by the City of Toronto to operate Guild Park’s new $20-million restaurant/event facility. Dynamic officially took responsibility of the park’s restaurant site Feb. 20, 2016. Prior to that, the City spent months preparing the area to remove hazardous materials and remove the non-heritage sections of the Guild Inn structure.
Already, Dynamic and city officials are looking ahead to ensure the new event and hospitality facility generates local jobs. Representatives from the neighbourhood improvement group, East Scarborough Storefront, recently raised the issue of local employment – especially entry-level positions – with officials from the City of Toronto and Dynamic. It was agreed to develop hiring policies that will encourage local residents to work at the park’s new facility.
Storefront’s advocacy builds on the legacy of the old Guild Inn. Many Guild Park visitors continue to recall how they earned their first paycheques as waiters, kitchen help and at other jobs on the site.
The City of Toronto’s electronic version of guided walking tours – the Discovery Walks program – is coming to Guild Park.
Our park was recently selected as one of five new sites across Toronto to be added to the City’s growing collection of on-line tours. These apps are developed in conjunction with the social media program at Ryerson University.
Five existing Discovery Walks, mainly focused on historic sections of downtown Toronto, are already operating. The City’s Park Partnership Unit of the parks department is responsible for this project. The unit will work with Guild Park walking tour volunteers to move this project forward.
To find out more about this project and see the current roster of Toronto Discovery Walks online, visit Discovery Walks.
Community Consultation for Bringing Arts and Culture Programs Back to Guild Park Begins
More than 80 people – long-time Guildwood residents, arts professionals, new Canadians, volunteers, parents and teachers – had an opportunity to give their views about future arts programs at Guild Park at a preliminary public meeting in December.
At the first Community Consultation on Arts and Culture at Guild Park, people were encouraged to have a say about the site’s potential as a modern version of The Guild of All Arts. This was the historic artists’ community launched on the property in 1932 by its former owners, the notable Canadian philanthropists, Rosa and Spencer Clark.
This arts and culture “revisioning” project is managed separately from the $20-million restaurant/event facility construction now underway at Guild Park. Yet both are closely inter-related.
The restaurant development team has announced that some form of arts/cultural facilities will be included in the new restaurant facility. The decisions made about the size and scale of heritage displays and art galleries inside the restaurant will affect the type of arts facilities established elsewhere in Guild Park.
City officials want to avoid duplicating the restaurant’s arts features in Guild Park’s new public facilities for future arts programs. These city-run programs will be centred at Guild Park’s three existing buildings:
- the building at 191 Guildwood Pkwy.;
- the sculptors’ cabin in the front (north) garden area; and
- the pioneer “Osterhout” log cabin near the Bluffs.
People speaking at the December community meeting raised some common themes after more than an hour of open discussions:
- Funding: Apply money from the Clarks' estate, plus the insurance proceeds after fire destroyed Guild Park's Studio building in 2008, to the site's new arts programs/facilities.
- Art and Artifacts: Return the Clarks' notable art collection, historic memorabilia, such as letters, photos and other items now in storage for display in the new facilities at Guild Park. respect the site's legacy as a centre for professional artists that also welcomed visitors from around the world; Encourage excellence in arts activities.
- Renaming Building 191: People suggested various names for "Building 191" which will be the arts and cultural hub at Guild Park. Possibilities included "The Guild of All Arts"; "The New Studio Building"; and incorporating the Clarks' name in the building.
- Cooperative Operations: Develop for Guild Park's arts programs an innovative operating "model," based on the cooperatives that have been successful at other "art parks" in Toronto and elsewhere; coordinating new arts programs at Guild Park with those that exist elsewhere in Scarborough and Toronto; operating future art programs in a cooperative way with professional artists and arts organizations.
- Improvements: Enhance the visitor experience by adding public washrooms and making drinking water available at Guild Park; enhance outdoor performance space at the park's unique marble Greek Theatre with backstage facilities and appropriate sound/light and other stage equipment. protect the park's natural features.
"We have a blank slate," said Nadira Pattison, the City of Toronto's Manager of Arts Services, who welcomed meeting participants. "We're limited only by our imagination."
City officials will continue to gather Input about the type of arts/culture programs to be offered at Guild Park in early 2016. To provide your comments can complete the online survey created by the City of Toronto here.
Guild Park “not well located” for an expanded library, Guildwood branch stays put
The Toronto Public Library board recently decided to keep the Guildwood branch at its plaza location for the next 12 years.
Many people had suggested Guild Park as site for a new and larger community library. The existing Guildwood library is a 3,000 sq. ft. facility that opened in 1973. Local demand has outgrown the library’s facilities and it now “falls short of the current standard for neighbourhood branches,” according to a January 2016 library staff report.
This report considered the Guild Park site, but found it “not well located in the community in terms of access, transportation and community focal point for neighbourhood library services.”
The Toronto Library board agreed with the report’s finding that the existing rented branch at the Guildwood Plaza “is the most desirable in terms of location,” noting the plaza is “a real community focal point” with parking and easy access by seniors.
City library officials decided to renew the lease for the current spot until 2028. During this time, the branch will gain an extra 1,500 square feet of space. The library staff report noted that after this expansion, Guildwood library patrons will remain underserved based on current use of the branch.
The decision to keep operating Guildwood’s library as a small branch outside Guild Park puts extra importance on plans to bring new community/arts-related facilities to Guild Park, most notably the redesign of the building at 191 Guildwood Pkwy.
Making Plans: The Guild Park Resource Group & Guild Park Management Plan
This advisory group of city officials and volunteers was set up to oversee progress on the 32 park priorities identified in the Guild Park Management Plan. The group includes City decision-makers, volunteers from the major Guild Park stakeholder groups – Friends of Guild; GVCA; the Guild Festival Theatre and the Guild Renaissance Group and representatives from the public.
Approximately half of the 32 priority initiatives identified in the Management Plan are considered “top priorities” by the stakeholder groups and fall in four categories:
- Park Trails – creating an overall park plan for improving/managing trails (location, accessibility, signage, lighting).
- Park Management – setting priorities/resources for park infrastructure (washrooms; park seating benches; garbage)
- Cultural/Heritage – returning arts programs with appropriate facilities; protecting outdoor artifacts; conveying Guild Park’s legacy through exhibits/events.
- Horticulture – caring/enhancing park gardens; encouraging public stewardship.
Implementing these initiatives is a long-term process. The volunteers involved in this work are also integrating their efforts with other major, though separate, projects that will affect Guild Park’s future including:
- The Waterfront Trail Plan by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority
- The Forest Management Plan by Toronto’s Urban Forestry division
- he City of Toronto’s park trail initiative by Toronto’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation dept.
- The new restaurant development plan by the City’s special partnership team involving Dynamic Hospitality and Toronto’s Economic Development and Culture Department
- Guild Park’s “Cultural Precinct” update by the City’s Cultural Services division.
These multiple initiatives continue in the absence of an integrated plan and priorities for all of Guild Park. Achieving progress on so many related, but separate plans, continues to be complicated. More than 15 government agencies, departments or divisions are involved in Guild Park operations.
The recent decision not to build a new library at Guild Park (see item above) was likely influenced by the complexities in using the site and that no recognized “champion” exists to promote Guild Park as a potential hub of sustainable cultural and other activity.
Many Guild Park supporters, including Toronto Mayor John Tory, recognize that Guild Park has operated for decades without a specific decision-making process that includes clear responsibilities and resources. Friends of Guild Park and other stakeholder groups continue to advocate for this.