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Estonian House Heritage Designation Approved
30 Nov 2017 EWR Online
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On July 7th, Toronto City Council passed By-law No. 719-2017 to designate 958 Broadview Avenue, Chester Public School, as being of cultural heritage value or interest. The by-law does not protect the additions to the original building that the Toronto-Estonian community made after purchasing the building in the 1960’s.

In describing the building’s cultural heritage value, the City’s “Statement of Significance” highlighted:

“The school building displays a high degree of craftsmanship and artistic merit in its massing and composition as well as in its combination of details and the originality expressed in the hybrid of the two popular late 19th century architectural styles.

Chester School/Estonian House is the oldest surviving school of the former municipality of East York and is valued for its 135 year association with the historic villages of Chester and Todmorden, East York and the current Broadview-Danforth neighbourhood. It is associated with the earliest development of the late 18th century mills on the Don River, the development of Broadview Avenue from an Aboriginal trail and the growth of the surrounding community. The historic school is also valued for its association with the Helliwell family who gave Todmorden its name, farmed the land on which the school was built and whose descendent Grant Helliwell, one of the two architects of the school, was born in Todmorden. Since 1960, under the ownership of Estonian House (in Toronto) the property has been associated with the Estonian community, housing the Estonian Consul, the Estonian Credit Union and providing for a variety of cultural, institutional and local community functions.”

Chester Public School’s protection has been long awaited by many local residents but the designation could also impact the potential value to developers. Any development and design considerations will have to work around the heritage conditions which may lower the price that Estonian House can garner and affect funding of the Madison Project. Developers that expressed interest in purchasing Estonian House most likely factored in the impact of the heritage designation. People familiar with 3 prospective developers confirmed that these particular developers weren’t able to participate in a bidding process because they couldn’t get the necessary information from Estonian House Limited to make an educated offer or they didn’t receive any response to their inquiries.

How the sale of the Estonian House moves forward and how much the revenue can ultimately be generated is still unknown. As the 4 Orgs already confirmed on November 17th in Eesti Elu:

“Our work has shown that interest to purchase the existing Estonian House land is strong. This is very encouraging for the viability of the project as the proceeds from a potential sale are essential for not only proceeding with the construction but also for what is achievable in its design.

A great deal of work has been completed on researching and understanding the zoning and heritage implications of the Broadview site. We are working with city planners to limit its impact on the utilization of the Broadview site to the extent that this is possible.”

As certain developers present their purchase offers in the coming weeks and the Estonian House Board, along with representatives of the 3 other Organizations, review and agree on the terms and conditions of their preferred option, it is possible that 958 Broadview may have a new owner by the start of the OMB hearings scheduled for April 2018. The OMB pre-hearing meeting on November 23rd revealed that Whistler’s and neighbouring properties are already farther down the development path. The corporation 1001 Broadview Ave Inc plans to present a site specific development proposal to the OMB and interested stakeholders in separate hearings as soon as they can be scheduled. The difference for 1001 Broadview Ave Inc is that none of the current properties involved in their development has a heritage designation.

Perhaps Peter Van Loan’s private member’s Bill C-323, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (rehabilitation of historic property), can pass third reading and move on to royal assent in time to give the purchasers of Estonian House enough tax breaks to make redevelopment of this heritage site economically beneficial and a hallmark of the City’s Broadview Development Plan.

Allan Meiusi


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