New centre marks milestones at Community Engagement Session

Updated #74


All systems are in full gear for the International Estonian Centre (IEC). Progress in key areas was presented at the March 10th Community Engagement Session held at the Estonian House in Toronto.

Project management, design and the capital campaign have marked major strides forward in recent months and members of the Estonian community came out to hear first-hand about work on all fronts.

Paul Lillakas of Toronto opened the session, and spoke about the impetus behind his family’s donation to the IEC Capital Campaign.

Paul is a third-generation Estonian and represents the Põldma and Lillakas families, who have become Viru Vanemad donors. The family unanimously decided to support the IEC in honour of their parents and grandparents Meinhard and Selma Põldma, who were vibrant and active members of Toronto’s Estonian community.

“We wanted to come together as a family to support the future of the Estonian community,” Paul said. “This is a legacy donation - we are all contributing to the best of our ability.”

The Põldma and Lillakas families represent second and third generation Estonians and live in six different Canadian cities.

“We’re incredibly excited at the prospect of having a new, modern gathering place for Estonians locally and from around the world,” he said.

Capital Campaign shows strong and steady support

Mark Gryfe, President of Gryfe Philanthropic Solutions and advisor to the IEC’s Capital Campaign, provided an update on the campaign. Total donor pledges collected to date sit at well over $6 million.

“A great deal of thought went into planning this campaign,” he explained. “As a result, the campaign is generating increased interest. The campaign leaders - members of the Estonian community - are doing a wonderful job encouraging support from potential donors.”

Mihkel Liik and Andy Prozes are leading the Kalevipoja Laud donor category and, so far, 17 gifts of $100,000 or more have been pledged.

Allan and Riina Hess are spearheading the Viru Vanemad group and 53 gifts between $10,000 and $100,000 have been pledged.

The Kungla Rahvas phase, for gifts up to $10,000, will be launched in the coming months.

“The response has been spectacular,” Mark noted with enthusiasm. “Every gift brings with it a touching and meaningful story about how people are coming together to honour their families. The idea of generations working together is truly what this project is all about.”

He said the campaign will also consider a corporate donations initiative as well as one for individuals to consider planned giving opportunities such as bequests through their wills.

Project Manager reports major goal reached

Project Manager David Kalm said that much has been accomplished since the end of the year. A notable accomplishment “representing literally thousands of hours of work” is completion of the drawings required by the City of Toronto for the IEC’s Building Permit.

The drawings were on display at the meeting, bound into a substantial book consisting of detailed drawings of every aspect of the building’s construction.

David also noted that another major task has been completed - the submission to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). A separate submission on the building’s construction was needed for the TTC since the building straddles subway tunnels.

Next on the project management agenda is to undertake the Request for Proposals process for the actual construction of the centre.

“We will be hiring the company that manages the construction and finalizes costing details during this phase,” David said. “This is a critical step and will take several months to complete.”

Architect unveils sneak peek at interior space

IEC Architect Alar Kongats presented an up-close look at the striking natural materials that reflect Estonian heritage for the building’s interior and exterior finishes. This included a 3-D virtual reality tour that guides viewers through the space and shows the interior flow and what the finishes will potentially look like.

“It’s exciting to see the centre come to life in this format,” Alar said. “We are able to show how the careful use of just a few materials creates a simple yet striking ambience that is truly reflective of the Nordic aesthetic.”

Alar also brought samples of the materials to the meeting, including the strong and resilient glass that will comprise the building’s exterior walls, with its bird deterrent feature. Natural granite from Ontario is proposed to comprise the exterior plaza paving.

He also showed a unique product for the non-glass portions on the exterior of the building consisting of textured aluminum panels. The design team is considering this material since it references an Estonian New Year’s tradition to predict the coming year known as “õnne valamine”. The textured finish is created when air is added to liquified aluminum, creating a an open hard foam.

In response to an audience question about the propensity of insects to nest in the open texture, Alar noted that it has been used as exterior cladding in a number of applications (see materials article [here insert url]) and the aluminum has a quality that repels insects as well as dirt.

Materials for the interior design choices will have a natural look and feel. A light wood will finish most of the walls and ceilings throughout. The back wall of the Grand Hall is proposed to be lined with “blackened” wood, which utilizes a Japanese preservation method to accentuate the woodgrain.

The design team is working through the final choices of what will be used and who the suppliers will be. The final quality of finishes will, of course, depend on the success of the capital campaign. Please consider getting together with your family, as did the Põldma and Lillakas families to make this building the best it can be.

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