Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why does the Estonian community need a new centre?

Southern Ontario is home to one of the largest community of Estonians in the world outside of Estonia. We have contributed to Canada’s cultural diversity and economic diversity for more than 60 years and now we need a home that will serve not just the local Estonian community but one that reflects the global Estonian diaspora as it has evolved. The new Estonian Centre will be a vibrant hub for culture, learning and social interaction for Estonian-Canadians, and will be financially sustainable for future generations.

The aging Estonian House at 958 Broadview Avenue required major capital repairs in addition to renovations to modernize the space and improve rentability but lacked a capital reserve to make the required repairs and it was not possible to continue operations in a fiscally responsible manner.

These fiscal challenges are not new. In 2009, the Board of the Estonian House launched a community consultation process to discuss and decide on the future of the Estonian House. While many options were reviewed, debated, discussed, and finally voted on, the one thing everyone agreed on was that the status quo was not an option.

2. What is KESKUS International Estonian Centre?

The new KESKUS International Estonian Centre will promote Estonian innovation and culture and be a vibrant hub to consolidate Estonian services, community events and organizations into one location that will serve the local and global Estonian community now and for future generations. With Tartu College next door, there will be opportunities for cost sharing, event synergies, collaboration and exploration of new ideas and cultural links that will be further developed.

The goal is to create a modern, mixed use complex for commerce, cultural promotion and social interaction for which Madison Ave. at Bloor St. is an ideal location. Tartu College is already established in its operations with income from its student residence rentals business and offers cultural, academic and archival programs through Estonian Studies Centre and provides space for Estonian fraternities and sororities.

4. Who is overseeing this project?

International Estonian Centre Inc. is led by a volunteer board but a project of this magnitude would not be possible with only volunteers. Two project managers were hired at the outset to oversee the due diligence phase of the project.

Estonian Arts Centre intends to continue its charitable programming once the centre is completed. This charity is led by a volunteer board.

The project management overview is in the next FAQ.

5. Who are the project managers?

David Kalm (current Project Manager) – David is an independent real estate developer with 27 years of progressive work experience in development, construction and infrastructure. For the past 15 years, he has focused on top end project management from a financial, planning and construction perspective. Positions have included President, Chief Development Officer and Vice President Construction. His skills include project conception, real estate development, project management and construction risk management. He has also worked in the mechanical consulting and technical sales sectors of the industry. Through his involvement in scores of residential, commercial and institutional projects, he has senior level experience in all types of building development. David has an MBA, and a Professional Mechanical Engineering designation.

Rob Deutschmann (past Project Manager) – Rob is an executive leader with 25 years of investment, development and asset management experience gained in private asset markets including real estate and infrastructure with international responsibility. Positions have included Interim CEO, Managing Director, Vice President and Chief Risk Officer with 14 years’ experience at OMERS and related companies including Oxford Properties and Borealis Infrastructure. His skills include large project and investment pursuit, acquisitions, dispositions, real estate and infrastructure development, project management and risk management. Rob has an MBA, a Professional Civil Engineering designation and a Chartered Director designation.

David and Rob were hired in July 2017. Rob continues to assist with key initiatives.

Ellen Valter, LL.B., advises on governance matters and is a project lead for KESKUS.

7. Would Northern Birch Credit Union be relocated to the new Estonian Centre?

Northern Birch Credit Union is an amalgamation of two credit unions: Estonian Credit Union and Latvian Credit Union. NBCU has three branches in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area. NBCU has stated its intention to relocate its Estonian House branch to the centre once it is completed so that it can continue to be accessible and provide excellent customer service in downtown Toronto.

8. Why does the Estonian House at 958 Broadview Avenue need to be sold?

The decision to sell the Estonian House was not taken lightly. But the Estonian House was no longer sustainable financially nor is it fully accessible. It required major capital repairs in order to be able to operate in a safe and financially feasible manner. It is asset rich but cash poor. The use of the space by the Estonian community has also been steadily declining. In November 2018, the Board of Directors of Estonian House commissioned a Property Condition Assessment of the Estonian House and the results were consistent with previous analyses with regard to the cost of maintaining the building. It provided a more detailed view of building systems, including mechanical and electrical systems, and line-item recommendations on repairs. The sale does not mean that we cannot take our memories and photos and heritage with us to the new Estonian Centre. Just as we made the Estonian House our home, so will we make the Estonian Centre our new and sustainable home. Learn more about the report here.

9. Has the design of the new Estonian Centre been developed?

Estonian-Canadian architect Alar Kongats has developed a bold and modern design for the International Estonian Centre. The design will evolve just as in any development as the project moves through the approvals and due diligence process through to construction and opening. The final design will need to balance the needs of the community, the project budget, commercial tenants and financial sustainability. The square footage of the new IEC is the same as the current Estonian House but its layout and area will be different. The flexible design will be more efficient. Flexible space will enable the use of space to be maximized and customized for each activity and event. We will be able to enjoy accessible, modern hall facilities, wide hallways, convenient washroom locations and bright open spaces, to name just a few of the benefits. The community will continue to be consulted as the plans evolve and the use of space is determined in final detail. Design updates are provided to the community at regular Community Engagement Sessions, and our website.

10. Will there be a grand hall?

The grand hall will be of similar size to the current hall in the Broadview Estonian House. It will be able to accommodate 300 guests theatre seating format and 220 guests banquet style. The moveable stage allows for configurations in the hall as it is divisible into three. It will have a commercial kitchen with access into each part of the hall. Gracing the hall will, of course, be the Estonia grand piano.

11. Will there be enough classrooms?

Yes – the design is based on flexible space so the rooms sizes can be expanded and contracted as needed. In addition to the community room, the library and study lounge, there are a number of areas that can function as learning spaces.

12. How will the new Estonian Centre be viable financially?

Located in the heart of Toronto's Bloor Street Culture Corridor within the ambit of the University of Toronto and the tech community, and just minutes from the financial core, the International Estonian Centre will offer an excellent location for a variety of events, conferences. In simple terms, the operating business plan is to generate enough revenue from long term tenants and the events and rental business to cover the costs of operating and ensure a capital reserve to maintain the facility into the future.

13. Will there be parking and a drop-off area at the new centre?

Like most event spaces in downtown Toronto, there will not be on-site parking. However, there are many parking options within close proximity to the centre that will serve the needs of the community and those who rent space for events. There are 34 on-street parking spots in the immediate area, and 582 public parking spots are within a five-minute walk of the centre. As the project progresses, arrangements with nearby businesses with parking facilities will be considered. The building will be fully accessible, and an important feature is a safe designated drop-off zone at the front of the building designed for people dropping off children or the elderly, and those with mobility issues. See Update #54 for full details and transportation map. The official decision on parking requirements was released by the Toronto Local Appeal Body (TLAB) on November 6, 2019, and stated that “ ...any future parking demand resulting from the proposed development can be absorbed by the residual parking supply available in the surrounding neighbourhood,” and that “the multimodal nature of site’s location includes excellent access to walking, cycling and transit, including the proximity to two interchange stations on the City’s busiest subway lines, as well as access to an existing residual supply of parking spaces within a reasonable walking distance of the site. ” Read the full report here.

14. What is the access via public transit?

The International Estonian Centre is proximate to the Spadina interchange station. Toronto is well served by a mass public transit system known as the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). There are online trip planners you can use to plan your route. In addition to Spadina station, another interchange subway stations, St. George, is within a few minutes’ walk of the IEC. An extensive system of buses, streetcars and trains feed into the subway system from within the Greater Toronto Area, and throughout the province of Ontario. For more information, read article with map linked here.

15. Where can I get more information?

If you would like to provide feedback at any time, or ask further questions, please send your comments to:

16. What has been accomplished so far?

A high level summary of key milestones are shown below. A more complete overview of activities can be found in the regular updates that appear on this website. In December 2018, the purchase of the parking lot at 9 Madison from the City of Toronto closed. In May 2019, the City of Toronto Committee of Adjustment approved the requested minor variances for the International Estonian Centre project. In February 2020, the building permit application was submitted to the City of Toronto and together with the Toronto Transit Commission, has been in iterative, co-operative and ongoing review and refinement. In September 2020 the sale of the Estonian House at 958 Broadview Ave. closed and the community has leased the building for its continued use for 21 months. In November 2020 the purchase of 11 Madison from Northern Birch Credit Union closed. In December 2020 the construction manager for the build was retained and tendering is underway. Construction is scheduled to commence in Q1 2022 and is expected to take 15-18 months.

17. Is the Estonian House sold?

The Broadview properties have been sold. The project schedule has been laid out so that during the construction period of the centre, the Estonian community will lease 958 Broadview Avenue and community activities will continue uninterrupted.

18. How will the building be accessible?

The centre is proximate to the Spadina subway interchange station and is fully accessible. This means easy access into and within the building, wide hallways that are easy to navigate, accessible outdoor space, and accessible washrooms on every floor. A designated drop-off zone will ensure that passengers can exit safely from vehicles at the entrance of the building. More here.

19. What is planned for the rooftop?

Landscape architects North Design Office are working closely with the project team to ensure their work syncs up structurally and design-wise with the clean, Nordic-inspired aesthetic that the centre will reflect. The goal is to have the landscape design evoke Estonia’s landscape conditions and have this dovetail with the urban conditions in Toronto. The rooftop garden will have a temporary tent for events, that can seat 80 banquet style. More about the landscape design here.

20. Who will own the International Estonian Centre?

The legal structure is complex but has been chosen based on advice from lawyers specializing in this area to best facilitate efficiency in tax and operations. At an overview level, Estonian House in Toronto Limited (“EH”) is the sole shareholder of the International Estonian Centre Inc. (IECI) and the sole voting member of Estonian Arts Centre ("EAC"). EH directors appoint the directors of IECI and EAC.

21. What is a capital campaign?

A capital campaign is an focused effort to raise significant dollars in a specified period of time, usually to fund acquiring or renovating a building. The IEC’s campaign established three levels of giving, led by enthusiastic community leaders: Kalevipoja Laud ($100K+) is led by Andy Prozes and Mihkel Liik; Viru Vanemad ($10K-$99,999) is led by Riina and Allan Hess, and Kungla Rahvas (<$10K). The Honorary Chair of the Capital Campaign is Toomas H. Ilves, President of the Republic of Estonia (2006-2016). More information here.

22. What is the status of the Capital Campaign?

The community response to our capital campaign has been generous beyond all expectations. Along with our community donors, the Steering Committee and advisers collectively pledged $1 million and as of December 2021, over $8.4 million has been raised by numerous generous donations from community members around the world. Please see the regular updates for profiles of the donors on our website more details on donation and naming opportunities.