Getting to Know: The Metalworks
Interview by Chris Tiessen
ALONG THE BANKS OF THE SPEED RIVER IN DOWNTOWN GUELPH, THE ROYAL CITY’S OWN FUSION HOMES IS DEVELOPING AN EIGHT-ACRE MASTER-PLANNED COMMUNITY CALLED THE METALWORKS. THIS FANTASTIC MIXED-USE PROJECT WILL CONSIST OF FIVE RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS AND A FIFTY-FOOT-WIDE RIVER WALK PROMENADE CONNECTING THE URBAN VILLAGE TO DOWNTOWN GUELPH AND THE CITY’S IMPRESSIVE TRAIL NETWORK. THE DEVELOPMENT WILL FEATURE A FULLY REIMAGINED AND RESTORED HERITAGE BUILDING – AN INNOVATIVE FUSION OF CENTURY-OLD LIMESTONE AND COBBLESTONE WITH MODERN STEEL AND GLASS THAT WILL HOST COMMERCIAL SPACE WHILE ALSO SERVING AS HOME TO AN EXCEPTIONAL RESTAURANT AND NOTEWORTHY CRAFT DISTILLERY. A COUPLE MONTHS BACK TOQUE SAT DOWN WITH FUSION’S FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER LEE PICCOLI TO CHAT ABOUT HIS VISION FOR THIS DISTINCTIVE SPACE.
IT’S TAKEN A LOT OF WORK TO BRING THE HERITAGE BUILDING BACK TO LIFE. WHAT MADE IT WORTH THE EFFORT? It is not often people get the opportunity in life to revitalize something of such historical prominence in the city where you were born and raised. The heritage building at The Metalworks was just that – an opportunity to honour the rich history of the site and its founders and elevate it for the future. This building has always been a fixture in the community. Since its construction in 1827 (the same year Guelph was founded), it’s served as a grist mill, distillery, brewery, copper shop, and home to several metalworking companies. What we’re doing here is simply writing the next chapter in its remarkable history.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO BRING LIFE BACK INTO THE HERITAGE BUILDING WITH DESTINATIONS LIKE A RESTAURANT AND CRAFT DISTILLERY? Our goal has always been to honour the history of the site and the building, including the original distillery that was present hundreds of years ago. With that, we just could not miss the opportunity to house a distillery once again and continue writing the story alongside an incredible local talent, like John Sleeman. His passion for quality – whether it be local ingredients, the best equipment, or the experience he curates – is so well aligned to the true epitome of The Metalworks vision: Authentic, Genuine Guelph.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT SPRING MILL DISTILLERY – THE CRAFT DISTILLERY TO BE HOUSED IN THE HERITAGE BUILDING? Spring Mill Distillery is John Sleeman’s newest project. We are tremendously excited for Spring Mill to be ramping up, and cannot wait for the people of Guelph and out-of-towners alike to experience it. John has already contributed so much to Guelph’s beer culture; it’s going to be incredible to see what he can bring to distilling in the Royal City.
THE HERITAGE BUILDING’S RESTAURANT SPACE HAS YET TO BE FILLED. HOW’S THE SEARCH BEEN GOING? WHAT’S THE SPACE LIKE? The search has been going well – we’re currently reviewing multiple proposals. We’re keen to choose the restaurant with the right vibe and vision for The Metalworks community and for Guelph. The space is beautiful. Exposed limestone walls. Beams. Original wood flooring. And, when it’s done, patrons will be able to enjoy an outstanding patio overlooking the River Walk and Speed River.
THE METALWORKS IS POSITIONED TO BREATHE NEW LIFE INTO DOWNTOWN GUELPH. HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT THAT THIS PROJECT BE LOCATED SO CLOSE TO THE HEART OF THE CITY? Nearly two hundred years ago, just steps from The Metalworks, Guelph founder John Galt felled the first tree to make room for the development of the Royal City. It’s fitting that we continue building on this city’s rich heritage by developing a community with the scale and vision like this so close to downtown – on a plot of land that’s had an intrinsic link to Guelph’s success since the early nineteenth century
5 Arthur St S, Guelph