By Issey Abraha
The Grand Old Lady of Shuter Street is getting a facelift.
The province and the federal government are each tossing in $8 million for the renovations expected to cost about $135 million to expand the exterior and renovate the interior of concert hall.
The hall, considered among the finest in acoustics, opened in 1894. It has hosted some of the greatest musicians and singers, from Pavarotti to Gordie Lightfoot, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to Rush, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir to Neil Young.
“I first stood on these boards at the age of 11. This concert hall has always had a special place in my heart,” said Charles Cutts, president and CEO of Massey Hall. “This is a day many of us have dreamt about for a long time.”
The Albert Building on the south wall will be demolished and construction will begin on technological and production facilities to the halls first ever loading dock.
The second phase begins in 2019 that will preserve its exterior façade and interior restoration, as well as upgrading interior facilities for patrons and artists.
The Toronto-based MOD Developments Inc. and Tricon Capital Group Inc. transferred a 4,804-square-foot piece of land along the south wall of the hall to allow for the expansion.
The two firms are developing Massey Tower, a 60-storey condo tower currently under construction at 197 Yonge Street.
The hall will remain open during the first phase of construction, but will close for between 18 to 24 months for the interior renovations.
“We are the only G7 country that did not cut the budget towards artistry during the global recession,” said federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver. “Our government has invested $4 billon to improve arts infrastructure in Toronto.”
The revitalization project is expected to take seven years to complete. The project has received additional funds from private donors as well as full support from the city council.
“My first taste of classical music came courtesy of my grandma who brought me here (Massey Hall),” said Mayor John Tory. “Today we have begun the task of ensuring Canadians an opportunity to attend a performance here.
“Restoring historical sites like Massey hall is important part of city building,” he said.
Cutts said the restoration work will set the stage for not only the artists performing at the hall now, but also for aspiring artists of the future.