The image (left) illusrates the proposed plans - click to enlarge view
TORONTO – "We are determined to build a better Italian cultural centre, with our partner the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), that meets the needs of our community and stays true to our mission." So says the latest "spin" missive from Villa Charities Inc (VCI).
It is revealing that not a single member of the Board of VCI nor of Villa Charities Foundation (VCF) has seen the need to affix their signature to it. Maybe they lack the courage and conviction. They have already lost credibility and the public's trust. Even Toronto Catholic District School Board trustee, Maria Rizzo, said as much in public meeting of the TCDSB in August. And, by virtue of her role, she is "a partner" in their project.
What are those needs? What is that "project"?VCI has been denying that it has plans other than for the demolition of the Columbus Centre. However, the accompanying graphics, companion documentation submitted to the City planning department by VCI, tell us that the project is a construction redevelopment program pure and simple. Condos and townhouses - approximately 3000 units, no more greenspace - for the Villa Charities campus.
Can the immediate neighbouring community (Playfair-Glenlong) and its physical, municipal infrastructure sustain that level of construction? will it continue to be viable as plans to redevelop the southern half of the campus emerge? VCI Chair, Aldo Cundari, pontificated that Villa Colombo is "obsolete" and will be replaced by condos and townhouses".
North York's first High rise, 3000 Dufferin, Villa's neighbour, also wants to build more condos and townhouses on its site.
I digress. Villa Charities stands to net about $100,000 per condo unit from the project. That is $300 million in net profits ultimately into the coffers of (VCF). It started as an Italian-Canadian non-profit, charitable organization. Presumably, the public "owns" its assets. In addition to the land at Dufferin and Lawrence, these include buildings Caboto Terrace, Casa Del Zotto, Casa Abruzzo and Villa Colombo North (Woodbridge).
Additional assets associated with Mens Sana and Vita Community Living are currently in dispute since the latter two organizations stated proceedings to sever their ties with Villa Charities.
Columbus Centre was always envisioned as a cultural hub for the Italian-Canadian Community ... and for those communities that have drawn inspiration from its vision. There have been many. The current board at VCI seems captivated by the dollar signs attached to land development, and less interested in the cultural-life style aspect of their role. They have evidently concluded that "the Italian Community doesn't exist, and, if it does, it doesn't care", according to one board member who spoke on condition of anonymity. Yet another pronounced, remorsefully, that "we have become rich, earned our Ferraris and traded in our values."
That must explain the need for the partnership with the TCDSB. The School Board has TWO schools adjacent to Villa Colombo: Dante Alighieri and Regina Mundi. Both have declining enrollment along with academic achievement records that do not pose a threat to some of the upper tier schools in the system.
TCDSB wants to build a THIRD school on the site - adjacent to the current Columbus Centre - and turn it into a "replacement facility" for the Columbus Centre and permitting VCI to meet its "needs" for the Community. For VCI, this has It carries the added benefit of constructing a roadway (from Lawrence to Playfair) necessary to redefine the topography in order to more easily acquire a municipal permit to build another condo tower.
The TCDSB is in the business of education. Last month, in an in-camera meeting of the Student Achievement and Wellbeing and Human Resources Committee, "the Board", according to the VCI - which made a presentation to extend the period of their agreement - voted unanimously in favour to remain in the partnership.
One is tempted to sarcasm: building another school must a solution to scholastic underachievement and declining enrollment. At least one Trustee is already expressing regret at having participated in a "fraudulent and non-existing committee".
That Committee meets tonight at 6:00 pm to approve the minutes. Again, behind closed doors.
We know what CI gains. What is in it for the TCDSB?