Eestlased Kanadas 15 Mar 2014  EWR
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The Toronto Estonian House Limited Board of Directors (Board), in “Eesti Elu” on January, 17. 2014, provided answers and invited questions from the community regarding the future of Estonian House. The Board proposes to have the new Estonian House constructed, occupied and fully functional by 2018. This gives us only 2 more years to enjoy our beloved and popular Estonian House before it gets torn down. At that point all the users, renters and the Estonian society activities have to pack up and move out at their own cost, find their new places and pay their own way ! This would be destructive to the society and will be the end of all activities at Estonian House for years to come and maybe forever.

The Board has decided that demolishing the existing Estonian House and constructing a new Estonian House-2018, is the only right way to proceed and they have put all their effort into this proposal. No serious consideration or professional research was carried out, to our knowledge, for the continuing use of the existing Estonian House. In a perfect world, where we have an active and growing society, unlimited funds and a strong common goal, it might the right approach. But we do not have a perfect world, times have changed, community activities have decreased, we do not have unlimited funds and the common goals that held us together are not so defined any more. The time to construct a new Estonian House was many years ago, when the community was strong and active. If the new proposed Estonian House was to become part of a condominium development, then we should notice that the condo market has fundamentally changed. There is a backlog of 18,000 condo units unsold in Toronto and the price growth has flattened. Many experienced developers can’t sell enough units to get the bank financing to actually build and have given up. It is too complicated, where one can make so many mistakes with tragic results.

The rezoning process alone may take 1.5 to 2.0 years, with big expenses and without any guarantee of success. In the meantime armies of consultants need to work on the project, who have to be paid for their work and financing may not be available for an un-experienced, non-profit, society owned, mixed use project.

The history of the development shows that the unrealistic vision of the Board has already taken nearly 8 years, 3 sets of consultants, and untold sums of community funds. Unfortunately we still do not have any of the required details or information for the new project: what we are allowed to build (rezoning); what are our needs; what are the plans, requirements and the design criteria (rooms, sizes, areas, heights, parking etc.); what will it cost and what is the project budget; what is the anticipated value of Estonian House property; will there be enough money left over to carry out the project after all of the fees and expenses; how much money has been spent to date and where did the money come from; are there any other outstanding payments, separate account contracts and agreements; how are we going to proceed; how long will it take and how do we get there!? Even so that there is little information, the Board claims that Estonian House-2018 is achievable and financially sustainable and promotes it with unsustainable claims and motherhood statements.

Toronto Estonian House Limited is a share capital “not for profit” company which is managed by an annually elected voluntary Board of Directors. As such, it does not provide continuity to manage such a difficult and complicated project. Why then does the Board want to lead the Estonian society into such a risky undertaking which will be a lot more difficult, lengthy and costly to solve than presently anticipated by the Board, without any guarantee of success. Who will manage the project? Who will be responsible and liable for problems and cost overruns when things go off the track ? Will the Board, who have initiated the project, signed the agreements and contracts, without any input from the Shareholders, guarantee to manage the project until completion, or will they tender their resignations when things do not turn out as planned? Who is there to take over ? How is the continuity of the management guaranteed? Why is the Board trying to be a developer? Are our priorities mixed up or lost? Isn’t the purpose and object of the Board to promote the.....”cultural and recreational interest of persons of Estonian origin living in Toronto...” and.....“To own real estate and operate thereon an institution similar to a club, the facilities of which shall be available to all persons of Estonian origin whether or not they are Shareholders of the company.....”(from Constitution of Estonian House in Toronto Ltd.)

Why would the Board start the Estonian House-2018 project and burden the society for years to come, when we already have an existing, functioning, debt-free and suitable Estonian House, which can be economically renovated, modernized and modified to suit our needs now and in the future. Where the work can be done in our own time to meet our requirements and the costs controlled by ourselves as and when the work proceeds. This is a realistic, suitable and achievable goal! I realize I am letting the facts get in the way of their “dreams”, but what I am afraid of is the “nightmare” it will produce!

Many members of our society are worried about the future of Toronto Estonian House. They believe that the Estonian House, being the Centre of our community’s activities and the bastion of our culture, must remain in its present location and in its present form, not demolished, but fixed, repaired, renovated, updated, modernized and enlarged (if needed), such as to become self-sustaining and continue to remain the Toronto Estonian Community Centre in perpetuity. This is our home that we love and where we are masters of our own house.

Almost 400 regular users of the Estonian House have already signed the petition sheets located in Estonian House Restaurant and we urge all like minded Estonians in Toronto to add their names to the list. The lists will be presented to the Board before the next annual meeting with a request for the Board to stop further work on the proposed new Estonian House-2018 until all the questions have been answered, and a detailed technical and financial study of existing Estonian House, by architects, engineers and other qualified building professionals, has been completed to the satisfaction and acceptance by the shareholders and the Estonian society in Toronto. Without this information it would be impossible for the shareholders and the society to make a final decision.

Perhaps it is time for the Board to seriously review their vision and halt all work and expenditures on the proposed Estonian House-2018 development and instead concentrate all their efforts and research to redevelop, update and modernize the existing Estonian House for continuing use by the Estonian society now and in the future.

We have only 2 more years to save what is left of our Estonian House, society, our culture and our sole before the four walls, the bricks and mortar of what has held the treasures of our Estonian heritage are demolished forever!
The above comments, questions and thoughts are provided in hope that they will be useful for the development of Estonian House and will be seriously considered and acted on by the Board.

Guido E. Laikve, Architect (Ret.)

Ed: The author has also forwarded the above to the Board of Directors of the Toronto Estonian House, desiring to elicit answers to the posed questions from the Board as well as from EWR readers.

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Jan 31 2018 - Toronto Eesti Maja
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