Broken Promises: Community Use

In May, I contacted Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PFR) to get availability and rates for community use spaces at the Guild Inn. PFR told me to contact Guild Inn Estate (GIE) directly for any indoor use at the Guild Inn. GIE is the company that operates the event facility inside the Guild Inn.

I found this very strange because the City had promised that Guild Inn spaces would be made available to the public and permitted by PFR just like PFR makes available and permits all other community/recreations centres across the city.

Anyway, I contacted GIE per PFR’s instructions and asked for a list of available spaces and rates for community groups. I copied Councillor Paul Ainslie on all of my emails with GIE for full disclosure and so he could chime in. He did not.

GIE did not provide a list but told me they would provide a quote instead based on dates and event requirements. They told me to be assured their rates would be in line with rates set by the City of Toronto for other community spaces.

I asked GIE what those City rates were – how else could I be assured that GIE’s quote would, in fact, be in line with City rates? GIE did not answer but told me instead to go do my own research.

After much effort, I eventually convinced the City of Toronto Client Services, Scarborough District to finally send me the City rates for PFR’s spaces. A room for 50 people would cost $16.12 per hour = $48.36 + HST for a 3-hour meeting for up to 50 people. Registered non-profit community groups like the Guildwood Village Community Association (GVCA) would qualify for Free Room Rental. Good deal!

I sent those rates to GIE and asked for a quote for the GVCA’s monthly board meeting expecting it to be free or at least no more than $48.36 + HST. Crickets. Until about a month and a half later, on August 5, when they sent me a quote for $48.36 room rental + $225 manager fee + $30 table rental + $20 linen rental + $150 chair rental = $473.36 + HST = $534.90

It took me more than 2 months, 50+ emails and phone calls with GIE and various City departments to get a straight answer to a simple question only to learn it would cost our non-profit community association a prohibitive $534.90 to rent a meeting room for 3 hours.

Absolute horseshit and a complete failure by the City of Toronto to meet its promise that the Guild Inn would be developed successfully for the benefit of the local community and the City as a whole.

Which community groups can afford those rates!? Probably none. End result: Community groups can’t afford to book spaces so they don’t which is then being interpreted as if community groups are not interested.

Like I said, Councillor Paul Ainslie was copied on my emails with GIE but he completely ignored the subject, he ignored the absurdity of me spending 2 months to get a straight answer to a simple question, he ignored the fact that the final answer completely contradicted the City’s promises on multiple levels.

Background:

  • City of Toronto promised that the Guild Inn – a “very valuable Heritage property – would be developed successfully for the benefit of the local community and the City as a whole.” Source: City of Toronto
  • City of Toronto promised that the development would be used to continuously operate a restaurant and event/banquet/conference centre, City and community uses, and for no other uses. Source: City of Toronto
  • City of Toronto declared that areas of the development that would be eligible for tax exemption (ie Eligible Premises) would be used primarily for local community activities, for the purposes of the City, and for a public use. Source: City of Toronto
  • City of Toronto defines Eligible Premises as the following: Source
    • 1,408 square feet of space used as Washrooms;
    • 6,065 square feet of space used as Museum and Storage
    • 22,367 square feet of space used as a Banquet Hall and Community Centre;
    • 4,185 square feet used as a Gazebo;
    • 812 square feet used as the West Museum and Display Area;
    • 812 square feet used as the East Museum and Display Area;
    • 628 square feet used as the Foyer Museum Display Area; and
    • 860 square feet used as a Meeting Room
    • 2,086 square feet used as a Meeting Room
  • City of Toronto promised that Eligible Premises (i.e. public use areas listed above) would be made available to the public and permitted by the Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division. Source: City of Toronto

City of Toronto Room Rentals:

  • PFR operates recreation centres including Free Room Rentals for local non-profits and Lower-Cost Rentals for others. Source: City of Toronto
    • Rental Costs are based on the City of Toronto’s Facility Classifications and Ratings. Source: City of Toronto
      • Room Premier: $54.32/hour, Capacity for more than 300 people, includes dedicated washrooms, tables and chairs
      • Room A: $16.12/hour, Capacity for up to and including 50 people
      • Room B: $24.96/hour, Capacity for 51 to 150 people
      • Room C: $32.29/hour, Capacity for 151 to 300 people

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