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Frequently Asked Questions
  • 1. Why does the Estonian community need a new centre?
    Southern Ontario is home to one of the largest communities of Estonians in the world outside of Estonia, contributing to North American cultural and economic diversity for more than 70 years. This community is vibrant and evolving and with activities ranging from schools, festivals and summer camps, and it engages the diaspora Estonian community. This global community and the local one need a home that reflects who we are today, one that includes the refugee lineage as well as Estonians who have migrated to North America since Estonia regained its independence some 30 years ago. KESKUS International Estonian Centre will be a vibrant hub for culture, learning and social interaction for Estonian-Canadians, Estonian-Americans, and beyond, 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. It was not possible to continue operations in a fiscally responsible manner. These fiscal challenges were not a surprise. 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. Construction on KESKUS is underway and the project is proceeding.
  • 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 owns KESKUS?
    KESKUS is being built by International Estonian Centre Inc. (IECI) in trust, and is led by a volunteer board - but a project of this magnitude would not be possible with only volunteers. Project managers were hired at the outset to oversee the due diligence phase of the project and now subject matter professionals continue to manage the project (see next FAQ). Estonian Arts Centre (EAC)'s charitable objects are to promote the arts and it intends to continue its charitable programming in KESKUS once the centre is completed. This charity is led by a volunteer board. Estonian House in Toronto Ltd. (EHTL) is a not-for-profit corporation that is the sole voting member of EAC and the sole shareholder of IECI, and is owned by over 2400 shareholders who hold more than 7000 shares. EHTL directors appoint the directors of IECI and EAC.
  • 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. Ellen Valter, LL.B., advises on legal and governance matters and is the volunteer project lead for KESKUS.
  • 7. Would Northern Birch Credit Union be relocated to KESKUS?
    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. International Estonian Centre Inc. and NBCU have concluded lease negotiations. Read more about NBCU's exciting plans here.
  • 8. Why did 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 International Estonian Centre. Just as we made the Estonian House our home, so will we make KESKUS our new and sustainable home. Learn more about the report here.
  • 9. Has the design of KESKUS International Estonian Centre been developed?
    Estonian-Canadian architect Alar Kongats has developed a bold and modern design for KESKUS International Estonian Centre. The design will evolve just as in any development as the project moved through the approvals and due diligence process and as it progresses through construction to 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 KESKUS 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, via the monthly newsletter and the KESKUS blog, on the website.
  • 10. Will there be a grand hall?
    The Jänes-Koppel Grand Hall in KESKUS will be of similar size to the grand 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 catering 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 KESKUS International Estonian Centre be viable financially?
    Located in the heart of Toronto's Bloor St 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: info@estoniancentre.ca
  • 16. What has been accomplished so far?
    A high level summary of key milestones are below. Current activities can be found in the regular updates that appear on this website at www.estoniancentre.ca/news-events. December 2018 purchase of the parking lot at 9 Madison from the City of Toronto closes. May 2019 City of Toronto Committee of Adjustment approves requested minor variances for the project. February 2020 building permit application submitted to City of Toronto. September 2020 sale of Estonian House at 958 Broadview Ave. closes and the community leases building for another 21 months. November 2020 purchase of 11 Madison from Northern Birch Credit Union closes. December 2020 construction manager for the build is retained and tendering gets underway. April 2022 ceremonial groundbreaking held. February 2023 Canadian and Estonian coins tossed into the concrete of first foundation pour, for good luck. Spring 2025 - KESKUS opens!
  • 17. Is the Toronto Estonian House sold?
    The sale of the Broadview properties (Estonian House and the contiguous Estonian Foundation of Canada properties) closed on September 1, 2020. The leaseback of the 958 Broadview Avenue building ended on October 31, 2022. Despite best efforts, the project schedule has not been able to accommodate a one-move option given pandemic induced delays, but is scheduled to open April 2025. Please read up here on the "Lääst Blääst" held on October 1, 2022 that celebrated the Toronto Estonian House with over 700 attendees who came from all parts of the globe.
  • 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.
  • 21. What is a capital campaign?
    A capital campaign is a focused effort to raise significant dollars in a specified period of time, usually to fund the acquisition or renovation of a building. The KESKUS campaign established four levels of giving which were named by the late National Geographic journalist Priit Vesilind. The categories are led by enthusiastic community leaders: Kalevipoja Laud ($100K+) is led by Andy Prozes and Mihkel Liik; Viru Vanemad ($10K-$49,999) and Koidula Gild ($50,000-$99,999) are 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 the KESKUS capital campaign has been generous beyond all expectations. Along with community donors, the Steering Committee and advisors collectively pledged CDN$1 million and as at the beginning of 2024, more than CDN$19.2 million has been raised by hundreds of generous donations from community members around the world. Other sources of funds include community organisations. Please see the regular updates for profiles of donors on our website more details on donation and naming opportunities. The capital campaign goal is CDN$23 million. As such, the capital campaign is at 83.5% of its goal - please help the campaign reach its goal!
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