Bloor-Dufferin School Lands Update

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UPDATE: In April 2015, the TDSB decided to defer the sale of the land and that it was now interested in receiving a proposal and feasibility plan from the TLC to create a community hub on the site. Following this, I redoubled my efforts to work with our partners and at the June 12, 2015 Toronto City Council Meeting, my motion on this was unanimously passedCity staff and resources will now be mobilized to work with the TDSB, the TLC, and other partners on this important community project. I look forward to seeing what could hopefully take shape in the months ahead.

Ward 18 residents, and especially those near the intersection of Bloor and Dufferin Streets, may be aware that the TDSB had planned to sell 7.3 acres of land including Kent School and Bloor Collegiate Institute. 

The Bloor-Dufferin School Lands were declared surplus on December 19th, 2013 and the closing date for Expressions of Interest from public agencies wasApril 18th, 2014. However, the TDSB had been looking at the possibility of big changes to this site since 2004. This process became much more intensive early in my first term as Councillor, after the TDSB wrapped up its Accommodation Review Committee (ARC), which was an effort to ensure that student needs could be met before looking at disposal of the property.

The next stage was the TDSB's Local School Community Design Team, which began early in 2012. The design team recommended that the TDSB move students into Brockton School, settled on a set of design principles and sketched out a site plan. There was a year delay between the time the Local School Community Design Team finished its plan and the time the TDSB was able to declare these properties surplus. This left many residents wondering what was going to happen to the Bloor-Dufferin School Lands.

At the TDSB's meeting in November 2013, the public was informed that The Bloor-Dufferin School Lands were to be declared surplus and put up for sale. After the formal declaration of surplus, the Toronto Lands Company (an arms-length corporation acting on behalf of the Toronto District School Board) issued a circulation notice. Upon receiving notice of this proposal, I immediately coordinated City divisions to determine available resources toward purchasing the site. These efforts resulted in a letter from the City's Real Estate Services Division on March 4th, where formal interest was expressed on behalf of our Parks, Forestry & Recreation and Economic Development & Culture Divisions.

The Toronto Lands Corporation's response letter stated that the School Board and the Toronto Lands Corporation were unwilling to entertain any bid for less than the entire 7.3 acre site. It was impossible for the City of Toronto to obtain necessary funding approval to submit an offer for the entire property by the deadline; however, I believed there was tremendous shared interest in bringing all partners together to make the most of this irreplaceable community opportunity; in particular, to discuss the size and orientation of park lands, the possibility of cultural and social service agencies finding space within existing or modified buildings and the density of development which is permitted on site were of critical importance for our community. For this reason, I contacted TDSB Trustee Maria Rodrigues and worked with her to arrange a meeting with Toronto Lands Corporation CEO Daryl Sage.

Discussion between the City of Toronto and TDSB/Toronto Lands Corporation took a big step forward on April 4th when we met at City Hall to discuss how we might work together to ensure public benefit in case the site ended up being offered for sale on the open market. I clearly expressed that whatever is eventually built at the corner of Bloor and Dufferin will significantly impact the daily lives of area residents and TDSB students for generations to come. Therefore, we had a unique opportunity in guiding development outcomes early in this bidding process. This landmark site holds potential to become a shining example of city-building partnership between the City, the School Board and local organizations. For these reasons, I continued dialogue with these agencies, with Education Minister Liz Sandals and with our community.

In April 2014, it was possible that another school board would buy the site and it would never go to the open market. It was also possible that no public agency would have been able to offer the fair market value for the entire 7.3 acre site and it could have been offered to private developers. In any case, I was committed to ensuring that the next stages of the process were community oriented, consultative and coordinated. I could not allow this important opportunity to be missed by our community or our city.

In an effort to ensure the site would remain in public hands, I worked with the Toronto Catholic District School Board to put together a joint bid on the site. The decision on whether to accept the bid was in the hands of the Ministry of Education for many months and in February 2015 I wrote a letter to Education Minister Liz Sandals asking for a meeting and a decision on this matter. 

In April 2015, the TDSB decided to defer the sale of the land and that it was now interested in receiving a proposal and feasibility plan from the TLC to create a community hub on the site. Following this, I redoubled my efforts to work with our partners and at the June 12, 2015 Toronto City Council Meeting, my motion on this was unanimously passedCity staff and resources will now be mobilized to work with the TDSB, the TLC, and other partners on this important community project. I look forward to seeing what could hopefully take shape in the months ahead.

The "Building a Better Bloordale" residents' group hosted a COMMUNITY INFORMATION MEETING on Monday April 7, 2014 at 7 p.m. in Bloor Collegiate Institute (1141 Bloor St. W) in the cafeteria to discuss the issue. Click on this background slide to download a copy of the presentation I gave at this meeting:

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