A 7-year $135 Million plan to revitalize Massey Hall was launched today at an event staged at the venerable Toronto performing arts venue. Hosted by Charles Cutts, President and CEO of the Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall Corporation, speakers from all three levels of government and from Toronto's arts community spelled out what the hall has meant for Toronto and its citizens—and for some who have performed here—over the course of the last 120 years.

Rendering, Massey Hall revitalization plan, KPMB Architects, TorontoRendering of Massey Hall revitalization concept, image courtesy of MH-RTH Corporation

Cutts began by thanking Tricon Capital and Mod Developments for the gift of 4,800 square feet of land to the south of the building, without which the revitalization and expansion would not be happening. The companies are behind construction of the Massey Tower, a 60-storey condominium now under construction on an adjacent parcel, and have given Massey Hall the land needed to build proper back-of-house facilities, something the hall has always lacked. Cutts also thanked local City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam for her help in guiding the proposal through the Section 37 process which directs funds from each large development in the city towards tangible public benefits.

An annex called the Albert Building has already been cleared away from the space where the expansion will be built, with the cleared area initially being used a part of the construction staging area for Massey Hall. Phase One, costing $32 Million, will be complete in three years and will result in the construction of the basement "shell" for the expansion area. At ground level, vehicles will be able to pass through to access Massey Tower. Above that, new back-of-house facilities for the hall will be built as part of Phase Two. The cost of designing Phase Two is built into the $32 Million price tag for Phase One.

Ground plan, Massey Hall revitalization plan, TorontoGround plan of Massey Hall/Massey Tower and surroundings

From the Government of Canada, Cutts introduced the Hon. Joe Oliver, Minister of Finance and the GTA Minister, and the Hon. Gary Goodyear, Minister of State, Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. The two spoke on the federal government's interest in the ongoing vitality of Massey Hall, and reaffirmed an $8 Million commitment for Phase One first announced by the late Jim Flaherty when he was Minister of Finance. Cutts also welcomed the Hom. Michael Coteau, Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport to speak. The Provincial Government has also committed $8 Million to Phase One of the project. Cutts also thanked several private sector donors, including RBC, Amex, and the TD Bank have each pledged $1 Million. The Massey Hall Board is also pledging $1 Million, while other donors giving significant amounts include the Edwards Charitable Foundation and the current generation of the Massey Family. Toronto Mayor John Tory spoke of the hall's importance to the city's music scene, and the memories of great concerts most Torontonians have from Massey Hall over the years. Fundraising continues.

Massey Hall revitalization plan, TorontoAlan Cross talks with Geddy Lee of Rush about his connections to City Hall, image by Craig White

Well known radio personality Alan Cross interviewed Geddy Lee of the iconic Canadian band Rush to ask what his association with the hall has meant over the years. Lee stated that "Massey Hall has played a major role in my life—as a teenager when I saw bands I loved like Cream, Jeff Beck, and Genesis. And as a member of Rush where we recorded our very first live album there, All the World’s a Stage. For Torontonians in particular, it remains Canada’s classic music hall." Lee also talked about Rush's and other performers' attachment to the hall's intimacy and acoustics. Alejandra Ribera, a jazz singer-songwriter performed a soulful number to remind those in attendance of the hall's legendary sound. Cutts remarked that preserving the quality of the acoustics will be paramount as various elements of the hall are improved and restored during Phase Two of the work.

A video narrated by Rox Sexsmith touches on the history of Massey Hall and underscores its place in the life of Toronto:

While Marianne McKenna of KPMB Architects was in attendance, there were no renderings newer than the concept renderings produced a few years ago to show today. Plans for exactly what will be built during Phase Two will be worked out over the next couple of years. Cutts remarked that Massey Hall is expected to "go dark" for 18 to 24 months starting in 2019 to complete the restoration and expansion. Until then, Massey Hall will be programmed as normal.

Massey Hall revitalization plan, TorontoMassey Hall-Roy Thomson Hall Execs and local politicians celebrate the revitalization launch, image by Craig White

We will be back with more information on Massey Hall as it becomes available, but in the meantime if you want to get more of a look at the concept plans for Massey Hall, click on the UrbanToronto dataBase file, linked below, for several more renderings and diagrams. Want to talk about it? You can join in on the conversation in the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.