TORONTO - And so the countdown begins. The 60-day cooling off period granted by the Minister of Education to the TCDSB (and Villa Charities Inc) to come up with different [more acceptable] proposals for the Columbus Centre/Dante Alighieri project is coming to a close.
It seems that the matter is becoming ever more complicated and the saga of the controversial project co-sponsored by Villa Charities and the Catholic School Board may yet add another chapter.
According to reliable sources, it appears that Villa Charities Inc has asked to make an in-camera presentation to a meeting of the TCDSB trustees, before they enter into public session, to discuss changes to the project and the possibility of an extension to the agreement.
Those same sources claim that given the difficulties encountered so far, Villa Charities hopes to make a case for suggestions they hope will be sufficiently acceptable to Minister Hunter that she will be amenable to providing an extension to the end of August deadline [for changes to the original plan] she imposed at the end of June.
This suggests that little progress has been made over the last two months. Whether due to complexities or to will, to many issues remain unresolved, according to Corriere’s sources.
It has, to date, been impossible to meet some of the important conditions for community acquiescence or support. First and foremost, the Developer(s) cannot keep the central part of the Columbus Centre structure intact – specifically, the Rotunda, the Art Gallery and the Library – or guarantee the survival of the monument to workers killed on job sites.
Moreover, they will not rebuild a swimming pool, nor make provisions for a replacement indoor track. The preservation of outdoor greenspace, especially for the residents of the Caboto Terrace and Casa Del Zotto, will remain a vain dream.
In brief, VCI does not appear to have allocated much by way of resources to address the concerns and wishes of “the community”. Quite the contrary. There is no evidence at this point of any plan that might have the desired result of calming the waters and restoring a relationship of trust.
What is more, VCI is not improving its declining relationship with the members of the Columbus Centre Clubs. The CEO, Anthony Di Caita, just issued a letter to all members who frequent the “gym” club and the cultural programs that there will be an immediate increase of 10% in membership dues. According to Mr. Di Caita, the decision was taken following an assessment of the existing price structure and concluding that a raise was justified given that prices have not changed in several years.
However, the decision comes at a “delicate” moment and is widely seen as a deliberate attempt to discourage registration in anticipation of a projected closing in June of 2018. According to a representative of the Save our Columbus Centre, a drop in the numbers of those who frequent the Centre would be interpreted as further justification for program changes and reorientation of construction.
Next week may well see a rise in the temperature of relationships. Minister Hunter is expecting a “reworked” project before she decides to cancel the $ 32.8 millions set aside for the Board of the TCDSB for a new school on the campus.
If VCI asks for more time, one wonders whether she will be disposed to accede to the request, Public and Government Relations’ lobbying notwithstanding. The road is not yet cleared.
Corriere Canadese reached out to the TCDSB and Villa Charities Inc for comment. As at going to print, neither had responded.