Frequently Asked Questions

Click to download a PDF version in English, or our archived 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 the community for at least another 50 years. The new Estonian Centre will consolidate the largest Estonian community in Canada. It will provide 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 requires major capital repairs in addition to renovations to modernize the space. The Estonian House lacks a capital reserve to make the required repairs.

Present revenues narrowly exceed regular operating costs, and use of the building by the Estonian community continues to decline. It is simply not possible to continue its operation 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 is not an option. It simply does not make sense to have two Estonian centres located within a few kilometres of each other. It does makes sense to acquire a premium site in a superior location next to an existing Estonian community hub—Tartu College.

2. What is the Estonian Centre?

The new Estonian Centre will be a vibrant hub—as part of an “Eesti Keskus”, or “Estonian Village” next to neighbour Tartu College. It will consolidate services, community events and organizations into one location that will serve the Estonian community now and for future generations. While the two centres will remain separate, 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 cultural promotion and social interaction...and Madison Ave. at Bloor St. is an ideal location. Tartu College is already an established centre, and financially stable in its operations with income from its student residences. It offers cultural, academic and archival programs of the Estonian Studies Centre, the activities of the Estonian fraternities and sororities, the home of the Estonian Central Council and the Estonian newspaper Eesti Elu. It is home to the future Estonian Museum Canada (also known as VEMU) with the first phase of that project already complete.

3. Who is involved in this project?

The Estonian Centre project is guided by the heads of boards of four major Estonian Canadian organizations. This project has the endorsement and approval of the boards of all these organizations:

  • Tartu College (Jaan Meri, President)
  • Estonian Credit Union (Ellen Valter, Chair, Board of Directors)
  • Estonian Foundation of Canada (Eva Varangu, President)
  • Estonian House (Veiko Parming, President)

4. Who is overseeing this project?

This initiative is led by volunteer board members of the four organizations realizing this project, 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.

At this stage, one project manager, David Kalm, is leading and managing the multiple processes and requirements of the project. Additional help to support the capital campaign, communications and accounting has been retained on a part-time basis.

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.

6. Who else has been hired for this project to date?

The architect is Alar Kongats of Alar Kongats Architects. He is the recipient of three Governor General’s architecture awards and four Ontario Association of Architects (AAO) awards.

Urve Tamberg is the Executive Manager of the Steering Committee. She has over 25 years of leadership and management experience in both the public and private sectors in strategic planning, business development, sales and marketing, and financial feasibility analysis. Urve has had leadership roles at a Fortune 500 company, in hospitals, and at start-ups. She has an M.B.A., a post-graduate diploma in Health Administration, and an undergraduate degree in Physical Therapy.

Viivi Metsala of VSM Accounting Services provides accounting services.

Karin Ivand, a Toronto-based communications consultant, provides communications consulting services.

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

Yes. The Estonian Credit Union will be located near its members so that it can continue to be accessible and provide excellent customer service.

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 is no longer sustainable financially. It requires 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 broadly consistent with previous analysis 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 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 new Estonian Centre. The design will evolve just as in any development as the project moves through the approvals and due diligence process. The final design will need to balance the needs of the community, the project budget, any commercial tenants and ensure that it is financially sustainable. 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 articles published in Eesti Elu and our website. For more details on design, read article linked here: Design update at Community Engagement Session reflected user groups’ input Estonian Centre design wins prestigious architectural award Estonian Centre: THE centre for community activities

10. Will there be a grand hall?

The proposed grand hall will be of similar size to the current hall in the Broadview Estonian House. It will be able to accommodate over 300 guests in theatre seating format and about 250 guests with table-seating. Feedback from event planning experts, including our community chefs and caterers affirm that the capacity for dining guests is appropriate and sufficient.

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. This allows for the best and most efficient use of the space. There are enough areas that can be designated for classrooms.

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

Located in the heart of Toronto as part of the Bloor Street Culture Corridor and just minutes from the downtown core, The International Estonian Centre will offer an excellent location for the Estonian community, its long-term tenants, and an event business focused on both social and business clientele. In simple terms, the business plan is to generate enough revenue from long term tenants and the event business to cover both a) the provision of subsidized space for the Estonian community and b) the costs of operating and maintaining 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. Details are in development. 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?

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. Two subway stations, St. George and Spadina, are within a few minutes’ walk of the new 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 in Eesti Elu and this website. In June 2018, the sale of the current Estonian House at 958 Broadview was finalized (with final sale price contingent on zoning) with Revera, a senior living specialist. The zoning application and public consultations are currently underway, with completion anticipated by Q1/Q2 2020. All net proceeds from the sale of Broadview will be directed to the construction of IEC. In December 2018, the purchase of the parking lot at 9 Madison from the City of Toronto was finalized with FIEC becoming the beneficial owner of the land. 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. Construction is scheduled to commence in Q2 2020, based on the finalization of zoning of the Broadview property. Construction will take 15 months.

17. Is the Estonian House sold?

The Broadview properties have been sold to Revera, a major Canadian senior care provider that is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Sector Pension Investment Board. The final sale price will be determined by the zoning obtained by Revera from the City of Toronto. The project schedule has been laid out so that the construction period will last about 15 months, during which time the Estonian community will lease 958 Broadview Avenue and community activities will continue uninterrupted. For more information.

18. How will the building be accessible?

For IEC, “age-friendly” means easy access into the building, wide hallways that are easy to navigate, accessible outdoor space, washrooms on every floor and well-located and spacious elevators. A designated drop-off zone will ensure that passengers can exit safely from vehicles at the entrance of the building. It is a priority to ensure that this centre be be safe and comfortable for all age groups.

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 theme that the IEC will embody. The goal is to have the landscape design reminiscent of Estonia’s landscape conditions and have this dovetail with the urban conditions in Toronto. For more information.

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, The Estonian House in Toronto Limited (“EH”) has incorporated two new entities: the International Estonian Centre Inc. (IEC) and the Fund for International Estonian Centre (FIEC). Recently, it became the sole member of the Estonian Arts Centre, a registered charity. The Estonian House controls all three entities. EH shareholders will continue to exercise their primary power which is to elect the directors of EH. The EH directors will appoint the directors of IEC, FIEC, and EAC. For more information.

21. What is a capital campaign?

A capital campaign is an intense 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 Kunglarahvas (<$10K). The Honorary Chair of the Capital Campaign is Toomas H. Ilves, President of the Republic of Estonia (2006-2016).

22. What is the status of the Capital Campaign?

The community response to our capital campaign has been generous beyond all expectations. Most of our donors are from our Estonian Canadian community but a notable number are from the USA, and internationally (UK). Along with our community donors, the Steering Committee and advisers collectively pledged $1 million and as of November 2019, over $6 million has been raised by numerous generous donations from community members in Canada and the US. Please see the regular updates for profiles of the donors on our website and in articles in Eesti Elu. For more details on donation and naming opportunities.

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