The original Toronto Island Airport terminal is set to be restored and re-opened as a new public space, including a restaurant, aviation museum, and event space.
A group of private investors, represented by advertising executive Alexander Younger, announced plans Tuesday to fund the restoration of the 75-year-old building – now known as "Terminal A." The project will include collaborations with several high-profile partners: interior designers and HGTV personalities Sarah Richardson and Tommy Smythe will oversee the renovation of the space, while celebrity chefs Lynn Crawford and Lora Kirk have signed on to provide culinary services.
Mr. Younger – an avid pilot himself who has been flying out of Billy Bishop Airport since the 1980s – said he first approached the Toronto Port Authority (which runs the island airport ) four years ago, when the new terminal was built and Terminal A decommissioned.
The white clapboard structure was built in 1939, and features giant windows and a large control tower. The building, currently sitting on concrete blocks just off the runway, will require extensive renovations –especially on the interior, where entire rooms are blocked off with "caution" tape, and walls feature peeling paint, crumbling drywall, and giant holes. Mr. Younger would not say how much the project would cost, but said he hoped it would be completed by the spring of 2016.
"It's a glorious building, and it has one of the best views in the City of Toronto," Mr. Younger said. "It's the ultimate win-win – access for general aviation, a great new venue for the City of Toronto, and a nice destination for tourists."
Mr. Younger's plans would see the Terminal A building moved about 100 metres east of its existing location, making it accessible from the Hanlan's Point ferry. The restored building would feature a restaurant – possibly run by Ms. Crawford and Ms. Kirk – an art gallery, and an aviation museum. The building would also be used as an event space to host weddings and other private functions.
Ms. Richardson, who has hosted a number of interior decorating television shows (and is married to Mr. Younger), said the building has "incredible potential," and that she's excited it would give Toronto residents another reason to visit the islands. Mr. Younger said that they also plan on filming the restoration of the building, and have been in talks with major networks about developing a new television series based on the project.
"As designers, we start out any project scoping out the raw space and imagining what it could become," Ms. Richardson said. "It has fantastic spaces, it has fantastic vistas and sightlines from where it sits now, and that can only take another step up and get even better."
And Ms. Crawford, who has starred in several shows on Food Network Canada, called the partnership "an absolute joy."
"To have the opportunity to work in one of the most gorgeous buildings that I've ever seen – and has so much great potential, with that view of the city – it will be one of the best things that's ever happened to the City of Toronto."
TPA president Geoffrey Wilson said Tuesday that the restoration itself would be entirely funded by the private sector. "We anticipate to play a landlord-tenant type of role in this project," he said. "The project is being entirely funded by the private sector, and there is no public money going into the restoration of this building."
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly also attended the announcement, where he commended the TPA and partners for preserving the heritage building. "I would've expected it would've been easier and cheaper to tear the building down," he said. "However, this new arrangement will create an exciting new opportunity on the island."