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

Response to The City’s Response To Our REOI Questions

July 19, 2022

TMAC’s response to the City’s answers to our questions from July 5, 2022.

Overview

The City has responded to our questions, along with other submissions, from the tour of 32 Lisgar, formely known and operating as The Toronto Media Arts Centre.

You can read our questions here, and read the City’s response from July 14, 2022, here, beginning on page 34.

Summary

We believe the City is unnecessarily rushing the process in requesting REOIs for 32 Lisgar as information surrounding operating costs, inaccessibility due to surrounding City property, feasible completion of the theatre, and a true understanding of the building’s condition simply hasn’t been provided.

Further, many of these issues are being gatekept through shortlisting or a nebulous “negotiation phase”, when in reality these issues would significantly affect the comfort level of a not-for-profit, and its stakeholders, from even applying in the first place.

We assert that the arts and culture benefit is received as a benefit, not a burden, to the community. This includes an application process that puts unnecessary work on already strained not-for-profits— the same kinds of orgs 32 Lisgar is meant to support.

Our Letter

Anthea:

Thank you again for providing responses to interested applicants’ questions. We’re still reviewing some of your answers, but there are some initial questions that TMAC, its stakeholders, and partners, would like further answered:

  1. The most recent publicly available Building Inspectors Report (see attached) mentions that the HVAC system for the theatre needs to be redesigned. Our initial independent review concluded this is prohibitively expensive, reducing usable space, and potentially not fully completable because of existing building subsystems. As successful applicants must provide financials, business plans, and partnerships that depend on the completion of this feature of the space, can the City provide reasonable assurance the work can indeed be completed, along with an estimated cost, before setting a submission deadline for the REOI?
  2. Answer 11: “This City is in the process of identifying if a geothermal energy source is available on site.” Geothermal is known to be operating on the property and is being used to power the heat pumps. Can the City accurately provide information about geothermal systems, and the cost of its operation before setting a submission deadline for the REOI?
  3. Answer 14: “The City is currently in the process of determining the operating cost details with the Condo Corporation, as set out by the Shared Facilities Agreement. A copy of the Shared Facilities Agreement may be shared with the short-listed applicants.” This information is critical to stakeholders before taking on the time and resources to work with community not-for-profits to submit viable applications. Can the City please provide operating costs for the shared facilities agreement before setting a submission deadline for the REOI?
  4. Answer 15: “A copy of the Building Conditions Assessment will be shared with short-listed applicants.” The report in 1. does not mention the severity of the accessibility issues, flooding, etc. as they were unknowns pre-occupancy. Since our previous questions are related to post-occupancy operation, can the 2022 Building Inspection Report be provided before setting a submission deadline for the REOI?
  5. Answer 18: “Once the proposed uses and fit up / modifications of the Property have been determined by the Tenant, the City will hire a consultant to provide an AODA scope of work for the Property. The details of this fit-up work along with roles and responsibilities will be determined through the lease agreement discussions.” This doesn’t quite answer the question we asked: we know, through inspections led by City staff member Lori Martin, that accessibility issues are directly related to as-built plan changes, the abutment of the adjacent City park to the zero-line of the property, and the removal of closest, safest curb-cut access to the building. As the property/construction related issues affect achieving even base level accessibility, can the City acknowledge the seriousness of these issues and prioritize a more proactive plan to remedy them before setting a submission deadline for the REOI? This has a great impact on the usage of the space.
  6. Answer 35: “The vision for the Property has been driven by community needs identified at a June 2015 community consultation, which identified the need for a media arts based hub at the Property.” Information about this consultation is not available on the City’s Web site, nor any of the written materials requested by the City to attendees have been made available at the request of attendees and organizations. Can you provide records from the June 2015 community consultation?

The above questions reflect our overall position that a lack of information will affect the quality of submissions, including financial wherewithal, corporate sponsorships, programming partners, and business plan projections. This information should be presented before an REOI timeline with deadlines are introduced and not some time further along in the process.

It takes a lot of work for resource-stretched not-for-profits, the very same groups that will make 32 Lisgar a vibrant benefit to the community, to develop plans for a chance at escaping the precarity of Toronto’s real estate landscape for arts organizations. Putting up additional hurdles and efforts would countermand the aspirations the City has for the space, let alone the need the community has for it.

We ask the City, given how much time has already passed, why the rush to receive proposals based on inaccurate/incomplete information regarding the building’s condition and operation cost information? Why not provide an accurate assessment of the City-owned property before setting submission deadlines and timelines?

Please distribute to the other interested applicants, as we would also welcome any followup questions that they may have. We look forward to your response.

– President TMAC | Toronto Media Arts Cluster www.tomediaarts.org

Next Actions

While we await the City’s response, we will:

  • Continue to review the answers to the questions the City has provided.
  • Continue to get feedback from community stakeholders about the feasability of preparing proposals or even getting initial buy-in based on what the City has provided.