Friday, 04 September 2020 19:00
Estonian Life No. 35 2020
02 September 2020
EM Board of Directors
Veiko Parming, Chair
Raivo Remmel, Vice-Chair
Laas Hess, Glen Leis, Robert Kubar, Rein Kuris, Eric Sehr, Blake Royer, Urve Tamberg, Markus Viirland, and Peter Viitre.
Re: Sale of Our Toronto Estonian House and the Madison Project
THE MADISON PROJECT WILL NOT WORK and
THE SALE OF OUR ESTONIAN HOUSE WILL HURT OUR COMMUNITY
I have heard that people in the know now say that the Madison Project costs over 30 Million Dollars. That is not feasible and this situation is out of control! Two years ago, we were informed that it would cost 18 Million, last year it was 25 Million... now it is over 30 Million Dollars, and more in the future? The cost estimates just keep growing and we have no idea what the upper limit is. We were told that the sale price for our Estonian House with Revera was about 15 to 17 Million Dollars. Since that fell through and another deal has quickly developed with a possible closing this month, it is likely that the sale price is nowhere near what is needed for the Madison Project. The Revera deal fell through, a new deal is being rammed through and the Shareholders are not being kept informed. This is not in our community’s best interest.
When the Revera deal fell through, the Estonian House Board should have stepped back and looked at the options. Selling our Estonian House, with the three houses owned by the Foundation (Sihtkapital), for 17 Million Dollars (or much less) will barely cover half of the projected cost for the Madison Project. Where will the remaining millions of dollars come from? This is not the feasible plan we were told about years ago - other options need to be considered.
Our parents and grand-parents would not have agreed to a Madison Project deal we could not pay for. Our kids and grand-kids deserve a better future with the benefits we had in our Estonian House. The Madison Project, if it ever happens, will not be anywhere near as good of a community centre as our Estonian House. Shame on those who are working so hard to sell and destroy our Estonian House without even having a feasible replacement!
I do not believe that the Estonian House Board has kept the Shareholders properly informed. In an article dated July 28, 2020, the Shareholders were informed that the development deal with Revera had fallen through, “some months ago”. It should not have taken months to inform the Shareholders. As well, a new secret deal with another development group has been started, signed and completed? The shareholders were not told about this until months later. The shareholders still have not been given the details about this deal, let alone the sale price. All we have been told is that a deal is closing in September. This kind of backroom dealing where the shareholders are left unaware about their main asset is not appropriate. The Estonian House Board has informed us that they are selling our Estonian House and they do not have a reasonable replacement. Sadly, this can be considered negligent and not in the best interests of the Shareholders or the Toronto Estonian Community. Very disappointing.
Please remember that, during the Estonian House Community Meetings, the option to stay and renovate our Estonian House was to cost about 4 Million Dollars. That seemed to be expensive back then, but now, that sounds like a very good idea. If we add in another 1 or 2 Million, we can include some very impressive upgrades. That is feasible. It is time to step back and look at the mess we are in and stop the losses. That is in the best interest of the Estonian House Shareholders and the Toronto Estonian Community.
The Madison Project is far too expensive, has restrictions because of the subway tunnels and will likely never succeed. The City has not yet approved a building permit for the Madison Project. As of today, the TTC has not even given permission to build over their subway lines. That permission is very hard to get, will take more time and will add even more delay and costs to the Madison Project. The Estonian House Directors need to realize that the Madison Project is no longer viable and is not in the best interests of the Estonian House Shareholders or the Toronto Estonian Community. The huge amounts of money being spent everyday for planning and activities around the Madison Project need to be stopped. Those losses are not in our community’s best interest.
The Madison Project was a challenge in the beginning, and it has just gotten worse and worse. I remember when the Madison Project was first discussed - I was the Vice- President of the Estonian House and many thought that the idea would never work. Odd that the Estonian House Board are now pushing for that option and not considering any others. Very disappointing.
I remember that, at one of the recent AGMs, the Estonian House President said that the Estonian House is in horrible shape and is not salvageable. First of all, that does not say much for those who have been managing our Estonian House for the past many years; and second, that is not true. Our Estonian House has a very solid structure and is an excellent candidate to be renovated and modernized. Our Estonian House means a lot to our community and should not be so easily discarded. Renovating and modernizing heritage facilities like our Estonian House is commonly done and not demolishing the Estonian House would mean a lot to so many in our Estonian community. I am a Professional Engineer and, over the past 25 years, have been involved with many building evaluations, renovations and upgrades. My Environmental Engineering Company just had its 20-year anniversary and has been successfully working with many large Property Management companies with their revitalization plans. It is disappointing that some gave up on our cherished Estonian House so easily. Shame on them.
Is saving our Estonian Hose something that you would want to happen? In particular, I would like to hear from those who are Shareholders in our Estonian House - your voice is important! I do not think that the present Board of Directors are doing what is in our best interests or the best interests of the Toronto Estonian Community. If we get enough momentum, we can stop this horrible mistake! If it helps, I would be willing to run as a candidate to become an Estonian House Director again and take a lead role in helping to renovate and save our beloved Estonian House. We need to get our community back on the right track.
Some might say that it is too late to stop or turn back, but that is not true. There is always time to correct our course, it is not too late to fight for what is best for our community. The Revera development deal fell through just a few months ago - there is time to have the courage to stop and admit that the Madison Project plan is not working – that time is now!
Odd that the last development deal fell through months ago and the Estonian House Shareholders were not informed until another group (who wants to profit from our community’s losses) stepped in. The Shareholders should have been told about the Revera deal falling through much sooner. I hope there are not any other details kept from Shareholders that will come out to haunt our community later on. Serious pressure may have led to this fast deal making behind closed doors. That is never good - and likely not in the best interests of the Toronto Estonian Community or the Estonian House Shareholders.
We cannot have the Madison Project become a “WHITE ELEPHANT” where a few bad decision makers end up running our Toronto Estonian Community into the ground. What is left of our community if we do not have a home? SHAME ON THOSE that do not realize the risk!
IMPORTANT NOTE TO THE ESTONIAN HOUSE DIRECTORS: Certain people on the Estonian House Board have said that the Estonian House Directors have nothing to fear with their decisions- that the Directors’ Insurance would cover them. As a previous Estonian House Director and as a Professional Engineer, I feel it is important for me to caution the present Estonian House Directors - if any director fails to act or votes in a way that is NOT in the best interests of the Estonian House Shareholders, that insurance could be null and void and would not cover them. Present ESTONIAN HOUSE DIRECTORS: PLEASE BE CAREFUL. I know you joined the Estonian House Board to help our community, as did I a number of years ago. But if you do not do your own diligence or if you vote for ideas that are not (or you think are not) in the best interests of the Estonian House Shareholders, you could be found to be negligent and liable. Again, please be careful! We need to stick together and do what is in our community’s best interest.
I hope that there are many other Estonians that care about our history in our Estonian House, and do not want to give it up. Our Estonian House does need upgrading but it is very salvageable. We should not discard it. Our Estonian House, like our history, is important. Please share your views with me. Let’s work together and save OUR Estonian House!
Best Regards,Tonu Petersoo