"Let's think about all this! What's the panic?" (37)
Eestlased Kanadas 11 Feb 2018  EWR
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Kadri Vichman
 - pics/2018/02/51162_001_t.jpg

There is something strange and unpleasant about being presented with the ‘must sell’ option for the Toronto Eesti Maja in that ‘panic’ vote last April 2017. Several big issues were wrapped up in a single night’s vote after a mere 3 hour info meeting? Neither were EM shareholders allowed to be informed of the current state of the Eesti Maja, by its maintenance man who was present at the meeting? The estonian community at large was blindsided. That wasn’t fair, it wasn’t nice. It is no wonder that many are suspect of the state of affairs and have lost confidence and trust. A community severely divided.


It seems Eesti Maja has been struggling for 10? 15? years prior, yet just last April (2017) the EM management all of a sudden presented their ‘Madison’ proposal as the ‘only solution’ : sell the existing, move behind Tartu, one architect’s plans. Additionally, the proposal was presented such that ‘ now and finally, we will have something which will bring long awaited and desperately needed GLORY to Estonians in Toronto’. Wow..........I recall the “Tallinn, Tartu ja Toronto! ” slogan. I’m still miffed.... I cannot connect the dots on that one.....nor on the other hard-sell lines I heard. (The presentation had a whiff of the old saying....“When being run out of town, get ahead of the crowd and make it look like a parade.”)


I do not recall the Eesti Maja Juhatus ever, much less recently when things were going down, reach out to the community for financial help or ideas. All of a sudden, this SiNGULAR proposal in April 2017? We are successful 1st generation’ers -yes, all of us....this way or that way, plus or minus, and there are many of us. Among us and our children are established businessmen, businesswomen, professionals of all kinds, self starters, financiers, creative minds, etc. ...yet never a session where those outside the leadership ie the larger community were presented with the gravitas of the situation nor asked for their input, their solutions nor even for blatant financial help. I think most of us would be overjoyed in giving back DIRECTLY to the Eesti Maja...not via a Foundation. (Those are the names I’d like to see on a white wall in a ‘sunlit corridor’ - not those taking us into debt.)


What went wrong that we are incapable of keeping the EM going or changing it? Is all that we can come up with be to sell, downsize and relocate to an undesirable and in countless ways, constricting, suffocating, futureless lot and location? Huge sums spent on ‘due diligence’ and ‘financial reports’ on ONE idea.?...which obviously has divided the entire community.


Our parents and grandparents, the põgenikud, managed to buy for us this large, airy, spacious ravine Lot, fronting on a major artery no less, complete with ample and easy parking, quick access from highways, public transit to the doorstep, in a great neighbourhood in Canada’s largest City, Toronto. I understand it’s been paid for also..... (Pärlid on olnud seakaelas?)

I do not find that selling the huge existing Toronto Eesti Maja Lot on Broadview Ave complete with its awesome unobstructed Downtown Skyline and Don Valley views to the west (unrealized, in it’s present state), combined with the income-generating possibilities being fronted on Broadview Avenue, should even be considered an option for solving ‘the problem’.


It seems major attention in this Madison proposal so far has been placed only on the building itself - its structure, square footage, interior walls, engineering, financial flow charts. How about considering human factors: sunshine, crime rate, population density, visuals and future possibilities in this location? Bewildering, that important human factors - some examples immediately below - have not been addressed:
There will be constant shade behind the behemoth cement tower Tartu College. This site will forever endure the eternal darkness that will be cast by the future behemoths slotted to be built on the northwest corner of Madison and Bloor and extending all the way west to the corner of Spadina and Bloor. Winter days especially will be dark, cold and icy, the sun being low on the southern horizon. The shadows of 25 story buildings will be very, very long up both sides of Madison street most of the daylight hours.

The new building on Madison will be above the shake, rattle and roar of the Bloor subway trains. No, not seismic quakes but I would imagine that there will be issues concerning that in the future.

The surrounding outdoor spaces and pedestrian passages will be dark. Direct sunlight will not shine onto this location as some of the computer images I’ve seen present. Direct sunlight will not enter the buildings through the glass walls because direct rays will literally be blocked by the new highrises, except maybe on June 21’st +/- a couple of weeks at around 8-9 pm.

This Spadina neighborhood has higher criminality (rape and theft) and is next to densely populated University of Toronto and expanding Chinatown from the south.

Would you send your 14-15 year old by subway or by bicycle to Eesti kool at night? If not, where where will you park while waiting for them? Where is everyone coming from to attend weekly events such as laulukoor, eestikool, koosolekud etc? (Toronto proper?, Oshawa? Uxbridge? Newmarket? Collingwood? Barrie? Kitchener ? Cambridge? Guelph? Hamilton? Markham? Vaughn? Richmond Hill?, Mississauga?, Oakville?, Milton? Have there been any surveys done regarding that? By what method of transportation have most people used so far, to arrive at the existing Eesti Maja? Car, Subway, bicycle?

Where will that unhurried drop-off and pick-up location on the one-way, tight Madison street be located, where one can calmly help an elderly parent out of the car and set up the walker? or have time to take a stroller/wheelchair out of the trunk ?

This Esto building on Madison will be responsible for maintaining and cleaning the little open space between the U shaped buildings (where can’t build upon (ever) because of subway tunnels underneath) . This open space, I understand, will belong to the City of Toronto and is therefore ultimately a public park that we cannot call our own, yet will be responsible for maintaining. This parkette will be a welcoming rest space for those leaving late night from the Madison Pub.....

As for noise.... and odors...?

Privacy..? Estos seem to like the feeling of ‘being in a place of their own’. I find this ‘rahvaiseloomu joon’ to not be addressed in this proposal.

Another important consideration not addressed are the visuals. What do you see, when you are there? Not looking AT the building, but looking FROM the building? The view from the open space and from inside the building may well be one of future receiving docks, truck ramps, dumpsters, delivery trucks, recycling bins, service entrances, back doors and litter, swirling around in those little wind vortices.

Again, certain factors have not been addressed -given minimal consideration and answered with short form (wishful?) thinking.


Madison Avenue, Toronto does not call to mind Madison Avenue, New York City: Madison Avenue, Toronto is a small, claustrophobic one-way semi-residential side street complete with nightmare parking in the entire neighborhood.

The Toronto Eesti Maja has it ALL compared to Chicago Eesti Maja and New Yorgi Eesti Maja. To the Chicago Eesti Maja you MUST drive - it is an entirely enveloped “Nature” lot with plentiful parking. The New Yorgi Eesti Maja is entirely a city lot, without any nature or parking. The Toronto Eesti Maja Lot, meanwhile, has both nature and city and is complete with parking and public transit access to its doorstep.

But....what is the point in any comparison to Chicago or New York, much less to Tallinn or Tartu anyway?


Even if the present EM schoolhouse building on Broadview Avenue itself is unfeasible/unsalvageable/undesirable, the Lot alone is a “diamond in the ruff”, the Location can’t be beat, and it has significant historical substance and meaning in terms of heritage and community. The site alone denotes countless opportunities which our future generations can design for.

I would love to see Architect Kongats’ and other architects’ and designers’, creative minds, young or old, professional, ex- professional or not, present ideas for change for the Eesti Maja on our existing beautiful lot. I can only imagine the flash-flood of ideas and creativity starting to flow.......! Those ideas and thoughts should have initially been asked for from the community at large and taken into consideration a long time ago. It is not too late. They must be asked for, investigated and must become part of “The Record” in all of this before any grave decision on this singular proposal is made.

This singular “idee-fix’ proposal (due diligence done or not) cannot and should not be the ONLY solution for Toronto Eesti Maja troubles, even though this tangent is continuously presented to the community as such, by its leaders. I hope the community re-evaluates this ‘Mad’ proposal and resets from that tangent.


The Madison street idea, with all its site restrictions and constrictions, provides zero opportunities for future change. It is what it is. The 2-3 story U shaped building is all that anyone, architect or not, can build and design there anyway- ever. All that future upcoming young estonians will be able to change and renew in THEIR time will be to change the carpets, switch the artwork in the gallery, and upgrade lighting fixtures and toilets. No wonder Paley Park in NYC was mentioned/recalled. One can’t change practically anything there either... just the flowers in the pots and the outdoor furniture.

Going through with this proposal is taking the future of the largest population centre of välis-eestlased to the last stop------to the end of the line. I am not so sure that in the future, estonians from Tallinn, Tartu, Chicago, New York, Toronto or anywhere, won’t say “They sold that huge, beautiful, ‘in the city’ Toronto Eesti Maja property next to the Don Valley with all it’s natural earthly amenities, it’s community history, forfeiting all future possibilities and went into significant debt while their community base was shrinking, for this space? this place?. What were they thinking?!”

I look forward to alternative ideas and solutions for Toronto and GTA Eestlaskond regarding it’s Eesti Maja troubles to be welcomed, presented, discussed and investigated, rather than just this one ‘Madison’ proposal be rammed through in a panic. Better late than too late.
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