The International Estonian Centre Project (IEC) has entered its next phase: Estonian House in Toronto Ltd. (EH) and Estonian Foundation of Canada (EFC) are pleased to update the Estonian community that their Broadview group of properties has been sold to DK Broadview Inc. of Toronto for a base price of $15.6 million with a possible upward adjustment depending on the final density achieved by the purchaser on its proposed rezoning of the properties. With this sale, our community marks a major milestone in the creation of a new and dynamic International Estonian Centre in Toronto.
DK Broadview Inc. is a partnership of DiamondCorp and Kilmer Brownfield Development Fund, two experienced and prominent developers who have previously partnered on a number of high profile and successful developments. For the Estonian community, DK Broadview Inc became the right buyer at the right time. The process began when EH and EFC, as vendors, concluded an Agreement of Purchase in April, 2020. The Agreement was approved by the EH and EFC Boards of Directors and supported by the project Steering Committee of all four founding organizations; Estonian House in Toronto Ltd., Estonian Foundation of Canada, Northern Birch Credit Union Limited and Tartu College. A Waiver and Amending Agreement was signed July 15 and the transaction closed on September 1, 2020. By agreeing to sell all four properties together, EH and EFC expanded the development footprint of the properties and increased the net value realized by both organizations and for the community.
The International Estonian Centre has been designed by acclaimed architect Alar Kongats to capture an Estonian Nordic aesthetic. It will be built on Madison Avenue next to Tartu College, an established and vibrant institution creating a new cultural landmark showcasing Estonian ingenuity and heritage. The new Centre will be governed by the IEC Board of Directors, which will oversee operations of the Centre. Estonian Arts Centre (EAC) is the beneficial owner of the proceeds of the Estonian House sale. As a registered charity governed by its own Board, EAC is also responsible for the Capital Campaign and general fundraising for the new Centre.
The completion of this sale delivers on the promise made - not only to EH shareholders but to the Estonian community. Only three years have passed since April 25th, 2017 when EH shareholders voted with a 2/3 supermajority in support of a shareholder Resolution. That Resolution authorized the selling of Estonian House with the proceeds going toward the building of a new Centre on Madison Ave.
With decades of discussion and debate about what to do with an ageing Estonian House now behind us, it is time for renewal and rebuilding. It is time to regroup and focus on this next phase of construction and transition. As of September 1, EH and EFC continue to occupy their respective former properties for a period as tenants under separate leases from the purchaser. For most existing Estonian House tenants and licensees it will be business as usual. All tenants will be contacted to understand the upcoming planning for an orderly transition period and move to the new centre anticipated in 2022.
Estonian House has been a beloved home to the community since the 1960s. With the sale of Estonian House complete, the next phase of the IEC development for a new home begins. Veiko Parming, President of EH says it is time for the community to come together, build this Centre and bring architect Alar Kongats’ spectacular design to life.
“We are in a time of renewal. Our Estonian community is small and not always of one mind, but I’ve always believed that the way we move forward is by setting a course and sticking to it. Like our forbearers in the 1950’s and 60’s, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity now to build a place that will inspire new generations of Estonians here and across the continent to be proud of our heritage, our community and our shared love of eestlus.”
For more than 45 years, Estonian Foundation of Canada has formed the financial backbone of our community. As a registered charity, EFC’s mission is to solicit donations and bequests in order to fund Estonian cultural and heritage initiatives across Canada. Support is provided for Estonian language programs, heritage schools, summer camps and other existing and new initiatives. The Foundation has been integral to informing and connecting with Estonians across the country. In Toronto, EFC also provides financial support to most of the groups currently using Estonian House. EFC President Eva Varangu explains why the Foundation has for decades supported consolidating, at times competing community interests, to one location.
“We have a responsibility here in Canada to ensure the survival of our heritage, language and our culture. By consolidating our energies, finances and activities to one location we take a great step forward in ensuring our community’s future. With fewer than 2 million Estonians worldwide it is important more than ever to work together.“
The International Estonian Centre will be the meeting place for all generations of Estonians to connect with each other and to showcase our culture to our neighbours and friends from around the world.
Despite the pandemic, construction planning for this exciting next phase has continued. Project Manager David Kalm has already submitted the application for a building permit to the City of Toronto, is finalizing the Site Plan Agreement and continuing with submissions to the TTC. Design drawings by architect Alar Kongats are almost complete. The team is ready to hire a Construction Manager within weeks in order to get the job done expertly and on time. A Request For Proposals (RFP) for a Construction Management firm has been completed and will be issued shortly. David Kalm anticipates that construction will start before the end of 2020.
“We have been anticipating this moment. It’s taken a lot of work to focus on being prepared to move quickly to construction once the Estonian properties on Broadview were sold. Now the focus is on getting shovels in the ground on Madison Ave. I am excited for the community - let’s get together and get going!”
As construction gets underway and transition planning begins in earnest it will be time to engage more members of our community. The Estonian community has a wealth of talent and expertise which the project team will be seeking to engage. All four founding organizations, Estonian House in Toronto Ltd., Estonian Foundation of Canada, Northern Birch Credit Union Limited and Tartu College remain champions of the new Centre. The key to a successful transition is planning, preparation and stamina. It is time to move forward. As a community.