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Read the latest: The City of Toronto Defends The Current REOI Process

UPDATED 22-07-14 - Questions About 32 Lisgar REOI

July 9, 2022

TMAC has been monitoring, participating, and holding the City accountable for its REOI process.

Overview

On Jun 28, 2022, three board and organization members of The Toronto Media Arts Cluster (TMAC) attended the mandatory tour of the arts and culture space at 32 Lisgar street, formerly operated by TMAC as the Toronto Media Arts Centre, required to submit to the City of Toronto’s REOI process.

The REOI process, being spearheaded by Anthea Foyer in the IDM Office, Film and Entertainment Industries that’s part of Economic Development and Culture, began with a posting on Jun 10, 2022 on the City of Toronto’s web site. You can read about the multi-stage process for determining a not-for-profit lessor to deliver a “media arts hub” as a community benefit. The current expected timeline of events is as follows:

Updated 22-07-14

Application Stage Date
Request for Expression of Interest Release Jun 10, 2022
Information Session and Property Tour June 27-28, 2022
Submission Due Date July 22, 2022 August 12, 2022
Submission Review and Applicant Short List Selection August - September 20, 2022 August-September 2022
Shortlisted Applicants Informed August 12, 2022 September 2, 20202
Successful Applicant Agreement, Negotiations October-December 2022 November-December 2022
City Council Approval January, 2023
Execution of Lease February 2023
Commencement of Lease Early 2023 or later

As TMAC is in the unique position of having operated the space, we have first-hand experience in understanding complexities in the shared service arrangements, the deficiencies in the space’s construction, and the overlooked code and accessibility issues the City signed off on in 2015 for the building to be certified.

In order to address these issues as plainly as possible, TMAC attended the tour with a list of questions related to these issues.

Please note: issues around the the Section 37 arrangement that lead to the increased density of the attached condominium, the failure to hold Urbancorp, the building’s developer, and anything covered in TMAC’s legal battle with the City was not discussed, nor issues around usage or programming, as we believe they are in accordance with TMAC’s previous operation and the intended used of the space as described in TMAC original 2012 business plan.

Summary of Questions

TMAC has been monitoring, participating, and holding the City accountable for its REOI process by:

  1. Asking the City to outline a plan that prioritizes the accessibility of the space they signed off on in 2015. Currently, to bring it to 2025 AODA compliance, it will require significant investments and City co-ordination with Planning, Parks, and The Right of Way Committee. At this time, the City “hopes to have an ongoing conversation with the tenant” to figure out when this will get done and who will pay for it.
  2. Identify how those same issues have significantly affected building systems (HVAC) and occupancy/fire code, as well deficiencies causing flooding. We have asked the City to address that.
  3. Asking for timelines when the full shared services costs between the 36 Lisgar condo corp, Green P, and commercial tenant, Sinking Ship Entertainment, will be delivered. TMAC has been waiting for these since August 2014.
  4. Asking the City to provide information on the work they have or intend to do as mentioned in the REOI. Our inspection showed no material changes since our occupancy.
  5. Asking if the City will facilitate a meeting between the four interested parties to see if collective strategies and resource sharing can be achieved to maximize the community’s benefit.

TMAC also asked the City and councillor Bailão that, due the large number of outstanding questions, would the City consider facilitating a conversation between interested parties and stakeholder to strategize a more appropriate timeline.

As of Thursday, July 14, 2022, they City has extended the application deadline from July 22, 2022 to August 12, 2022 and has provided the interested parties with an update to the below questions, including other question that have been since submitted. You can read the PDF provided by the city here. Answers to questions begin on page 34.

TMAC’s Position

TMAC is eager and open to work with the community and its stakeholders to ensure the benefit is delivered as such and not a burden. This doesn’t mean that TMAC is seeking to be the exclusive operators, nor are we necessarily interested in providing the exact same community benefit our members collectively achieved while we were the operators.

Instead, we are deeply invested in the process of ensuring a truly collaborative and transparent approach to selecting, operating, and delivering the benefit of the arts and culture space is achieved.

Brief History of TMAC’s Involvement With the Space

TMAC was originally named the operator and owner of the space in 2012 by unanimous city council approval, and enabled the developer to increase the density of their condo project in return for delivery of a “turn key” facility, as noted in the Letter of Intent associated with the Agreement of Purchase and Sale.

Unfortunately, there were long delays in the project’s completion that diverted resources away from TMAC and ultimately resulted in the City not holding Urbancorp accountable for deficiencies and the significant changes to the as-built construction from the as-drawn plans. The City, instead, decided to back out of the deal.

In order to protect the community benefit, along with the efforts of dozens of arts orgs, hundreds of community members, and millions in cash and in-kind contributions, TMAC sued the City of Toronto, along with Urbancorp.

A protracted battle, in which Urbancorp went bankrupt before the City could compel them to complete the outstanding work, began in 2015. You can read the complete timeline of events here.

In 2018, the court and bankruptcy trustee for Urbancorp allowed TMAC to occupy the space under a license and we activated the space. TMAC operated the space for 2.5 years while attempting to find some common ground with the City through legal processes. After gaining tremendous momentum and support from the community, COVID-19 altered our funding plans significantly and we lost our lawsuit. TMAC, and its member organizations, were obliged to vacate the space in the summer of 2021.

This is the grounds for our questions in response to the REOI parameters from the City.


Detailed List of Questions and Available Answers

The tour, conducted by director Pat Tobin and three junior staff members, became more of a direct question and answer period as we were already familiar with the space.

In general, City staff were unable to provide answers to our specific questions, but meticulously recorded them. City staff encouraged us to submit additional questions, in writing, to be answered and distributed to the other attendees of the tour.

In the following breakdown, we will note which questions were answered, which are outstanding, and provide references whenever possible.

Accessibility

Regarding AODA scope mentioned in Appendix C:

On March 15, 2019, Lori Martin, along with two City inspectors asked board president Henry Faber to take them on a site visit to discuss accessibility and other issues around the arts and culture space.

What we determined was the following:

  • TMAC’s member entrance is up to code as drawn, but not as built, affecting the stated capacity for both entrance and the designated café area. 
  • Because of the concrete pillars present, accessibility and separation make the stated occupancy of 40 inaccurate. 
  • The adjacent City property, Lisgar Park, was built to 32 Lisgar’s “zero line”. While not necessarily against code, it clearly affects the accessibility of the space.
  • The developer’s solution was to have the doors open inwards to avoid blocking the narrow walkway between the drainage ditch and the entrance, which is against Fire Code, and the trustee (and TMAC) were cited numerous times in 2019/2020.
  • City staff, and numerous engineers, recognized Urbancorp’s incomplete installation of powered accessible doors and verified that there wasn’t enough space to place an accessible pedestal to allow for assisted devices.
  • City inspectors recommended calling in the Right of Way Committee to investigate and recommend changes that the City will have to pay for.
  • Additionally, because of the drainage ditch’s placement, the ground floor is susceptible to flooding during heavy rains. 

Questions

  1. What will the City do to ensure the entrance is up to code?
  2. What will the City do to ensure that the proposed community hub will be accessible?
  3. What will the City do to address the drainage ditch placement by Parks affecting both accessibility and property damage due to rains?

Initial Answers

  • The City is hoping an “ongoing conversation” with the tenant over “three years” will allow the accessibility issues to be addressed. 
    • We pressed that resolving these issues require significant resources, as well as a lot of coordination with the City itself, particularly for a City-owned property, need to have a more concrete plan. The City said they would address this.
  • The City stated that there was no need to be AODA compliant yet as the City’s target is 2025.
    • We insisted that 2025 isn’t that far away and, again, this is a City owned property with a mandate to make a community focused media arts hub.
  • The City stated that there were many, many buildings in its profile that weren’t AODA compliant.
    • We reminded the City that none of those were completed in 2015 and signed for certification by the City.
  • The City stated additional information would be forthcoming.

Side Entrance Stairs and Accessibility

  • The City’s REOI states concrete steps are to be installed leading up to the apartment/auxiliary space off of Lisgar and are the responsibility of the tenant.
  • Without violating code or having a variance, it will not be possible to make the entrance accessible due to the building’s placement on the lot.
  • Further, the adjacent commercial tenant entrance, and shared loading dock and freight elevator access, has non-accessible stairs.
  • Because of the placement of the stairs, building systems, cosmetic features, and community bike rack, an accessible ramp can’t be added to the side entrance without impeding the right of way.

Question

  1. How will the City work with the tenant to address this and is the cost solely the tenant’s responsibility?

Initial Answers

  • There is currently no answer to this question.

Street Access

  • In 2019, The City removed the curb cut by the accessibility ramp that led to TMAC off of Lisgar, citing they were “unaware of the facility” and that the curb cut had been left in error as “there used to be a road there”.
  • This means the only accessible way into Lisgar Park, and then to the arts and culture space, that isn’t a driveway, is on the opposite end of the park at the north-west corner.

Question

  1. What will the City do to remedy this on land it owns adjacent to a property it owns?

Initial Answers

  • There is currently no answer to this question

Elevators

  • During our time operating the space, TMAC averaged 5 elevator service calls per month, resulting in 15-20 hours of elevator downtime per month.
  • In some instances both elevators would be affected, and this left community members trapped on the second floor or unable to access the space at all.
  • After speaking to technicians at length, it was determined that the as-built plans varied from the as-drawn plans and the elevators were installed on inappropriately aligned buffers.
  • This affects how the hydraulic system is operated and required system “hacks” to maintain service, though regular access of the third floor degraded its efficiency greatly in short time leading to stalls and, ultimately, in operation.
  • Initial discussions with Selco estimated at least $80k per elevator to fix.

Question

  1. Is the City intending to fix the elevators of the property it owns?

Initial Answers

  • There was no answer to this, but it should be noted that TMAC-1, the main elevator used from the member entrance/cafe area, was out of service at the time of the tour.

HVAC

The REOI currently states “The Property will be finished by the City of Toronto to a base condition that includes concrete floors, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, HVAC, elevators, and fire and life safety services.”

Questions

  1. During our occupancy, we noted that the primary air intake had not been activated for the space. As of the beginning of Spring 2021, we learned installation had been incomplete by an independent study with Core One Mechanical. Will that work be completed?
  2. The primary intake feeds into the 36 Lisgar’s ventilation systems. Has the City ensured their systems are appropriately in-line with current health and safety guidelines?
  3. At least one of the heat pumps needed to be replaced in TMAC: specifically the one in the third floor office adjacent the classroom. Has that work been completed?
  4. A key component to finishing the cinema is the installation of proper ventilation. Core One Mechanical, Urbancorp, and engineers hired by the Trustee communicated with TMAC at the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021 that it the because of the as-built changes, it would be nearly impossible to add ventilation as intended. The cost of the renovation would be exorbitant. Is the City expecting the tenant to address this as completing the theatre is a requirement of the REOI?
  5. The design of the cafe area as built varies from what was designed. In the original design, there was more of an overhang that helped regulate warm air. As a result, the cafe, with normal operation during the winter, routinely dips below OHSA standards of 18° (20° for light work). Does the City’s HVAC updates address this? 

Initial Answers

  • Most of these questions couldn’t be answered at the time of the tour.
  • The City couldn’t verify that the theatre’s ventilation system could actually be completed.
  • The City’s initial response to the cold temperatures in the entrance and café area was “well, it doesn’t have to be a café”.

Plumbing/Electrical/Connectivity

Questions

  1. Has the City ensured all toilets in the shared bathroom will be in working order?
  2. Was a hot water tank installed in the kitchen adjacent to the second floor gallery space?
  3. Several baseboard electrical outlets needed repair in the second floor gallery. Is this part of the work that has been done or will be done?
  4. As-built conduit diagrams for telephony, security, and Internet were not available to the Trustee or Urbancorp. Will the City be able to provide that? 22 hours of TMAC partner, Beanfield, worker hours were used to help map this but it was incomplete.
  5. The City indicated that overhead vestibule lightning in the member entrance was working, but couldn’t confirm on tour. Can the details of the electrical work been for that be provide? During our occupancy, electricians verified wiring had not been completed at all.

Initial Answers

  • Any additional chattel, including hot water tanks, might be included in the tenant agreement.
  • Another organization requested Urbancorp’s discarded desks, monitors, and monitor stands be included.

Leaking and Flooding

Questions

  1. Because of the drainage ditch’s placement, the ground floor is susceptible to flooding during heavy rains. How will the City prioritize this to address usage and accessibility?
  2. The building as a whole is subject to many deficiencies, including issues with leaking flashing that leads to leaking through the windows and walls of various areas around the arts facility. Will the City’s renovations address this?
  3. Flooding from internal building drainage in the Main Gallery’s storage closet, as well as the second floor, West-side office space results in drywall damage. The second floor office, is also infested with black mold. How will the City address this?

Initial Answers

  • The City stated it had not been that far back in the second floor office before and had not observed the black mold. They committed to addressing it.

Cost and Expenses

The City says it’s still working out the costs associated with the shared service agreement between the lessor, The City (Green P), the condo (Edge on Triangle Park), and the commercial tennant (Sinking Ship Entertainment).

Questions

  1. TMAC was unable obtain accurate numbers for shared service agreement. The Urbancorp subsidiary that owned the geo thermal company providing service to 32 and 36 Lisgar haven’t provided exact numbers for expected costs. Further, they have attempted to claim arrears to 36 Lisgar which have dragged on for years. When will this outstanding balance and accurate costing be communicated to the tenant?
  2. Among the discrepancies around utility costs associated with the building, the building manager of 36 Lisgar contacted me last month to ask if we ever managed to receive a separate breakdown of utility costs. Is the City aware of the status of outstanding costs that the tenant will be expected to absorb?
  3. In late 2020, 36 Lisgar needed to connect building systems to 32 Lisgar’s power systems. Is the City ensuring separate service monitoring is installed to more accurately assess costs?
  4. Will the City provide the on-site equipment required for maintenance, such as skyjacks, ladders etc.?
  5. Will the City be providing warranties and documentation on the work performed? This is critical for any organization to invest their capital into completing the space.

Initial Answers

  • The City made it clear any arrears from past payments would not be the responsibility of the tenant.
  • The City had no timeline on when it would be to provide complete and accurate shared services costs.
  • The City doesn’t provide any sort of basic servicing equipment for its owned facilities, so ladders, skyjacks, and other maintenance equipment are the responsibility of the tenant.

Re: Urgency and Timeline

Question

  1. What is the seeming rush to secure REOI? The deadline offers less than a month from the tours and there’s a lot of outstanding questions that would affect an organization’s initial feasibility assessment, including accessibility and ability to address the completion of the theatre in the required timeline.

Initial Answers

  • City staff director Pat Tobin said the decision was driven by “cycles at City council”.
  • When asked for clarification, we were told that outgoing ward councillor, Ana Bailão, wanted to see an operator selected before she stepped down from her council position later this year.

Additional Answers via e-mail

On Tuesday, July 5, 2022, TMAC submitted the following questions via e-mail:

Given the large number of significant outstanding questions, would the City facilitate a meeting between all interested parties so a more appropriate timeline, driven by the community’s needs, could be developed to allow the best possible outcome for the arts and culture space?

On Wednesday, July 6, 2022, we received the following answer from Anthea Foyer:

Thanks for the follow up question. We will be providing an extension to the deadline. We are working on the details now and will send out new information shortly along with a Q&A from site visit enquiries.

On Wednesday, July 6, 2022 we contacted Ana Bailão’s office with the following:

Given the amount of information outstanding required to truly understand the feasibility of operating the space, along with understanding what kinds of City supports can offer, we asked City staff what the urgency was for reaching the July 22 deadline.

City staff responded that it was driven by your hope that an operator could be found before you step down from you current role on council.

We are asking you to reconsider and instead use this as an opportunity to bring together interested parties and stakeholders to develop a strategy that would allow us to collectively bring together the resources required to deliver the community benefit as intended. With the right information, the feasibility - and longevity - of this project would have truly lasting impact.

To this end, we circulated the following question for the City to distribute to interested parties:

Given the large number of significant outstanding questions, would the City facilitate a meeting between all interested parties so a more appropriate timeline, driven by the community’s needs, could be developed to allow the best possible outcome for the arts and culture space?

On Thursday, July 7, 2022, Michael Giles, Chief of Staff for the Ward Councillor’s office, responded:

Thank you for your e-mail to Deputy Mayor Bailao re the Arts and Culture Space at 32 Lisgar.  We appreciate your e-mail and will forward your request regarding an extension to staff for their consideration.

With respect to your comments regarding the timing of the selection of the operator prior to Deputy Mayor leaving office in the fall, this is not the case.  The decision on this will be voted upon at Council after the October 24th election, so in the new term of Council.