The board of directors of Estonian House in Toronto Limited (EHTL) has important news about the Estonian House (EH) and the leaseback at 958 Broadview Ave.
From the outset, a single move from EH to KESKUS International Estonian Centre at 9 Madison Avenue was everyone’s goal, intent and expectation. Unfortunately, delays caused in no small part by the COVID-19 pandemic have uprooted best-laid plans. The impact has been felt on all fronts: slow and cumbersome municipal and TTC approvals, supply chain and construction challenges with tendering and trades, and financial pressures on EHTL itself. Most recent challenges have been the construction trades’ strikes.
As we overcome these unprecedented challenges, progress is picking up steam with the start of construction, but there is no way to make up lost time.
Further leaseback extensions unlikely
When the sale of EH closed on September 1, 2020, EH was able to lease the building back for 21 months. Earlier this year we were able to extend the lease a further six months to the end of October 2022.
The leaseback arrangement has been mutually beneficial, as Eesti Maja continues to receive revenues and pay the operating costs of the house and runs it essentially as before. The new owner has welcomed our community’s continued use of the house while they progress through development milestones and work toward a point of construction preparedness.
It is now the Board’s expectation that any substantial extension beyond October 2022 is unlikely. This outlook has changed since the most recent community information meeting in March, when we did expect further extensions. As a community centre, we also owe clear forecasts on timelines to community groups, leasing tenants, and renters so that everyone can plan and prepare. Running a community centre month-to-month is not an option.
Implications of an October move-out date
Based on these developments, the Board is now planning with the expectation that <b>October 31, 2022<b> will be the last date of our use. There are several important implications.
First and most importantly, it will mean that Eesti Maja is not available for a period of approximately a year as a bridge to Opening Day at KESKUS. For community groups that are impacted, we would like to offer the opportunity to work with you, along with Tartu College and Estonian Foundation of Canada, to explore possibilities for interim arrangements to suit your needs, and will reach out to you in the next few weeks.
Save the date: Celebration on October 1, 2022
Second, our longtime community home deserves a proper celebration to remember its foundational role in shaping our memories and our lives over 62 years. Preparations are being made provisionally around the weekend of October 1st for this celebration. We invite everyone’s ideas and involvement for what is sure to be a bittersweet day.
Finally, the implications for physical transition and planning for the gap of time are substantial. A committee of the EH board will focus on community transition to KESKUS. The objective of the committee will be to make sure that the Centre is able to welcome and accommodate every community group that wants to use it – with the goals of priority of usage, low and affordable cost, and suitable spaces including storage.
The logistics of moving will be a major undertaking both through the summer and into the fall. EH is again hiring a summer student, funded by a government grant, to assist in the logistics of moving over the summer months, similar to last summer when a substantial amount of materials and supplies were already moved out. We anticipate that much of the month of October will likely be required to finalize moving logistics, including for tenants.
All community members who are EHTL shareholders are invited to join the EHTL Annual General Meeting virtually on June 29, 2022, for further information and an opportunity to discuss and ask questions.
We would also like to extend to community groups the opportunity to use Eesti Maja in September for your activities, at attractive rates. Please contact General Manager Ingrid Laar to discuss possibilities, at email@example.com.
For more information on the KESKUS project, please visit the news/events page at www.estoniancentre.ca
From the Boards of Directors of:
Estonian House in Toronto Ltd.
International Estonian Centre
Estonian Arts Centre