Toronto Museum Project Old City Hall

Toronto Museum Project might get a home (some day)

A recent City of Toronto staff report (PDF) gives reason for faint optimism that the Toronto Museum Project may get a permanent home, though the question of funding looms larger than ever. The report, dated April 14th, recommends that the courtyard at Old City Hall be considered a suitable location for a the construction of a standalone building to house the future museum. This follows a feasibility study from CS&P Architects, who determined that the cost of retrofitting the existing structure for use by the TMP would be "prohibitive" and that such renovations would "have a negative impact on the buildings heritage features," which would kind of defeat the whole purpose.

This is mostly good news, even though it doesn't promise a whole lot for the beleaguered project. If the existing building isn't a suitable fit — and it really isn't considering the list of renovations that'd be required to accommodate the museum — the idea of using the courtyard is an inventive way to house it in a location that still makes sense. Old City Hall is one of the most important heritage structures in the city, and a natural fit for something like a dedicated Toronto museum.

In fact, there's been talk of such a possibility since the plan to house the museum at the Canada Malting silos fell through in 2009. But, alas, that's mostly what it remains — talk. No doubt the most important line in the report reads as follows, "The TMP will only proceed if it is fully funded by external fundraising, with no cost to the City of Toronto." In other words, we'll find you the space, but you'll have to pay for everything else.

It seems almost laughable now (especially given the budgetary Armageddon promised us), but back in 2007, the city had committed $20 million to the TMP from the 2012 budget. Museums, of course aren't big money makers, but even the staff report acknowledges the importance of this project in describing it as a potentially "major cultural attraction." Without some City-based funding, however, even if the museum has a prospective home, it remains doubtful that it'll be able to raise the funds required for the construction of a building by the time the space becomes available.

Still, if there's one real positive to be found in this most recent development it's that the staff report asks that City Council recommend the courtyard be reserved for future use by the TMP. Assuming there's no statute of limitations on this reservation, it might mean that the TMP can begin its fundraising efforts in earnest once again. At least that's a start.

Aerial photo of Old City Hall from the Toronto Archives via the Wikimedia Commons


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