With Massey Tower now over 2 dozen floors up in the air, it's time to check in on what's happening at the adjacent Hall that the new condo gets its name from. Massey Hall is one of those places where you can drop the word 'icon' and not be accused of hyperbole: the Toronto concert hall and National Historic Site has been around for over 123 years, and hosted countless acts from Canada and around the world. Famous for its acoustics, but infamous for its paucity of backstage space and rehearsal facilities, Massey Hall was home to the Toronto Symphony until the orchestra moved to the more commodious setting of the brand new Roy Thomson Hall in 1982.

Massey Hall's Moorish Revival interior design was inspired by the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, and influenced by Louis Sullivan's Chicago Auditorium, but following renovations in the 1930s—and patchwork done since then—visitors to the hall no longer see the hall in its original splendour, and it feels like it has seen better days. Now, having started with a gift of new land to the south from MOD Developments, the concert hall is set to be expanded and rejuvenated as an announcement of Phase Two funding has been made.

Looking southwest to an expanded, renovated Massey Hall, image by KPMB Architects

Phase One of the plans kicked off following the transfer of land in 2013. The Albert Building, a 1917 addition to the south, was demolished, and its footprint dug out, along with the newly transferred land south of the Albert Building. In 2016, new basement levels—paid for in part by an $8 million grant from the Ontario government—had been formed and a new slab was poured at grade. The area, which leads from Victoria Street through to the back of the Massey Tower, is currently being used for equipment and deliveries for the condo tower's construction. Once construction of the condo no longer requires the space in mid-2018, the Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall can begin construction of the upper levels of the new south end.

Last week, on behalf of the Ontario government, Eleanor McMahon, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, and Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance, announced $4 million to support Phase Two. The investment is targeted for completing the detailed design and contract documents for the full renovation and restoration of the hall and the addition. Construction fit up of the addition's basement shell and early restoration work are also included in Phase Two.

Cross section of the expanded, renovated Massey Hall, image by KPMB Architects

While construction of the KPMB Architects-designed addition proceeds—from July 2018 until September 2020—Massey Hall will close. During that time, six new storeys of space will rise to the south of the hall, while the auditorium will be fully renovated. The addition will allow Massey Hall to become a multi-use facility, adding spaces for arts education, film, archival and content creation. Two new, smaller-scaled performance spaces are included in the mix, expected to be used by developing artists and more intimate events. Details of some of the spaces can be found in a magazine on the hall's website.

In the auditorium, heritage specialists GBCA Architects are overseeing the plans to bring the interior back to life. One of the key components of their work in to lighten the space again, as 100 original stained glass windows—some as tall as 16 feet—have been boarded up for nearly 100 years now. Pending the Halls' ability to raise all the money required, the plan is to fully restore them all of the windows, and flood the hall with vibrantly coloured natural light again.

Interior of Massey Hall in 1894, photographer unknown

Deane Cameron, President and CEO, The Corporation of Massey Hall & Roy Thomson Hall, has expressed thanks for the Ontario government's recent gift. "I would like to extend our sincere gratitude to the Government of Ontario for this investment in the Massey Hall revitalization. We are off to a great start! The demonstrated support we’ve felt from so many Ontario legislators has been incredible and this strategic investment accelerates the project closer to the $110 million dollars needed to complete proper restoration of this iconic cultural institution and update it to 21st century standards. On behalf of the Corporation’s Board, staff, patrons and artists, thank you for believing in us."

Earlier stories on UrbanToronto have looked more in depth at the plans for the interior. You will find links to those stories below, along with a link to our database file for Massey Hall. The file includes a number of other renderings and details of the plans. You will also find a link to our associated Forum thread if you would like to get involved in the conversation, or you can always leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

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