Whenever I read a headline that includes the words “Historical Society thinks big” experience has shown me that what is to follow is a bunch of bluster and nonsense that will result in limited community engagement and no doubt a cost to the Town of Aurora to entertain.
The article that ran in the August 26th edition of the Auroran here: http://www.newspapers-online.com/auroran/?p=11728 that touted the Hysterical Society as “riding high” after their sparsely attended Tennis jump-up was no exception.
Big picture thinking is something this group fails at consistently. So when one reads their intent is to soon enter into discussions with the Town to acquire a portion of municipally-owned land behind the Hillary House property line one only has to wind the clock back a couple years to review exactly how the last discussions with the town worked out with respect to property acquisition.
Floating a laudable Heritage Disneyland concept the AHS was not only unable to prepare a business plan, that missing component ended up costing the Town of Aurora $25,000, it had no way of financing such a scheme. Instead it set its eyes on drawing Millions from the town’s Hydro Reserve Fund.
Thankfully this blurred vision was brought into focus when the consultant showed that there was absolutely no private interest in partnering on such a project.
Jeffrey Tradburks of Aurora Castle Investments Inc. suffered from the same blurred vision when he pitched the Aurora Castle Theme Park concept on CBC’s Dragons Den program during the show’s 4th season: http://www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/pitches/aurora-castle-theme-park
The Dragons’ reactions are expected, but the fact that Mayor Dawe not only entertained, but encouraged such backwards business process but lent his support and name to an unsustainable endeavor costing the town time and money with nothing to show for it absurd. Especially when one looks outside our town’s borders as to how municipalities engage in big historical projects and get them to work for the mutual benefit of all partners.
On Labour Day The Toronto Star has provided an update into the Guild Inn restoration project:
If you’re unfamiliar with the Guild Inn be sure to check out their wiki here:
In 2008 I visited the site, here is a small photo gallery including some of the impressive pieces of Architectural Salvage on display that put to shame the almost non-existent attempts made here in Aurora:
Sadly 5 months after my visit fire damaged the studio building
In 2009 Centennial College announced intentions into restore the landmark, but they were never realized:
In this Toronto Star piece from April 2013: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/04/16/guild_park_gets_a_little_help_from_some_friends.html it was reported that the city has earmarked $6 million for a “cultural precinct” at the site — money that could be used to make a visitors centre, or install lighting for the Greek theatre. But nothing will be built until the Guild Inn can finally secure a corporate dance partner.
In July of that year council awarded an RFP to Dynamic Hospitality & Entertainment Group for the redevelopment: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2013.GM23.11
This Toronto Star piece from August 2014: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/08/12/city_oks_guild_inn_revival_plan.html extrapolates on the plans
The city would pay for removal of the hazardous mould and asbestos inside the Guild Inn and Dynamic would renovate it, preserving the heritage aspects. The outside of the white stucco inn would be restored to match what it looked like in 1932.
Under the plan, the city would sublease the restaurant, banquet hall and pavilion to Dynamic, as the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority owns the Guild Inn. The city leases it from the authority.
And now we learn that demolitions and restoration efforts will start within a couple of months. The new building will house a restaurant and a special-event venue catering to weddings and corporate functions, community events and charitable fundraisers.
The property even comes with its own 225 year old log house: http://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/the_fixer/2015/04/15/after-225-years-historic-log-cabin-could-use-a-new-roof-fixer.html
A project of this scale comes with a hefty price tag, and this is where the Public Private Partnership gets interesting.
The whole project will cost in excess of $16 million between the city and Dynamic, with about $5 million of that coming from the city.
That means the corporate dance partner is doing the heavy lifting fronting 70% of the costs with the city contributing 30%.
This is an equitable arrangement that when you hold up the Hillarious-Mack-in-Turd Park plan up to it you realize how insulting it was for the town to waste any time with it.
In this year’s budget the Town of Aurora shoveled the Hysterical Society a $70,000 grant, but that’s not enough. No. they feel entitled to park land in order to create up to 75 parking spaces to maximize Hillary House’s potential as a “destination.”
Hillarious House has flatlined as a “potential destination” for over 40 years now. Instead of recognizing and adapting to the cultural and economic climate it finds itself in Aurora is faced to watch their Hysterical Society stumble around blindly like a cheap monster in an Ed Wood production. A director that made his reputation on the belief that “Nobody will ever notice that. It’s not about the tiny details. It’s about the big picture.”
Almost as fun as watching Jeffrey Tradburks trying to maximize the potential of his big picture here: