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.
10. Will there be a grand hall?
11. Will there be enough classrooms?
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.
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.
14. What is the access via public transit?
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
17. Is the Estonian House sold?
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.