Guild Inn gets the guillotine

The city of Toronto has rejected Centennial College’s proposal to redevelop the historic Guild Inn in Scarborough.

In 2008, the college had proposed to build a 120-room hotel with plans to restore the Bickford residence. The two-phase project also included adding a restaurant, banquet facility and spa.

Earlier this year, Centennial stated they would be unable to carry on with the original plan due to a slowing global economy and presented a new proposal. Centennial’s development consultant, Pannell Kerr Foster, suggested a senior-friendly condominium building would allow the college to meet its financial obligations needed to restore the Bickford residence.

The new plan was rejected by the city of Toronto due to conflicting visions.

I will not support condominiums being built in the middle of a city park

— Paul Ainslie

In 2006, Coun. Paul Ainslie of Ward 43 created the Guild Park Advisory Committee (GPAC) along with executive members from the Guildwood Village Community Association (GVCA) to assist the city in finding a developer for the Bickford residence.

“I will not support condominiums being built in the middle of a city park,” Ainslie stated on his website.

Centennial argues condominiums are the only feasible solution rather than abandoning the residence for demolition.

“During times of economic recession, investors are averse to risk and our industry surveys indicated the [hotel] did not offer an appropriate return on investment to interest the private sector,” said Rosanna Cavallaro, associate vice-president of marketing and communications at Centennial College.

Part of the reason Centennial believes the hotel wouldn’t be a wise investment is because the Guild Inn is cut-off from the major transportation hubs.

“A 15-minute bus or taxi ride to a suburban subway station would not be considered convenient by time-strapped business travellers,” Cavallaro said.

Ainslie, along with Donna Milovanovic, president of the Guildwood Village Community Association, maintain that if Centennial had originally proposed the condominium project, the city would not have complied.

“The community would never have supported such a proposal and perhaps we would have a useful structure on the site today,” Milovanovic said.

Among the suggestions from residents in a recent community survey included a chapel, restaurants, a community centre and even an education school in place of condominiums.

The college says the concept was assembled carefully and respectfully and represented “the best possible solution for the park and community.”

“We’re very disappointed the city did not take our well-researched proposal seriously,” Cavallaro said.

The Guild Inn has been neglected for a long time and the community is frustrated in waiting for the city to salvage a part of Scarborough’s heritage, Milovanovic said.

“The yearly city budget should have included funds to maintain the site properly and keep it viable so that it would not be in the dismal state that it is today,” she said.

Ainslie could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.