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Sunday, November 23, 2014

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Groundbreaking for new JCC delayed

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Ted Sokolsky

TORONTO — Plans to break ground for the new facility that’s slated to replace the former Bathurst Jewish Community Centre (BJCC) have been delayed again, but the building is still expected to open in 2016, community officials say.

However, the “size and scope” of the new structure, to be located at the Sherman campus on Bathurst Street between Sheppard and Finch avenues, are expected to be different from the original plans because of a recently proposed downtown Jewish cultural centre.

Ted Sokolsky, president and CEO of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, told The CJN that the federation is finalizing a plan to build the downtown centre, which would include a Jewish museum and gallery space for the Koffler Centre of the Arts.

Groundbreaking for the mid-town Prosserman JCC on the Bathurst site is contingent on finalizing plans for downtown, and on raising additional funds, Sokolsky said. He expects ground will be broken before the end of 2014, instead of this year, which was the previous goal.

In 2008, the federation announced that the entire project, including the new JCC, would be ready in November 2011. The BJCC was torn down in late 2009.

The federation has raised $100 million for the new campus, and still has to raise another $35 to 40 million, Sokolsky said. He believes all the funds will be raised before ground is broken, he said.

An original estimate of $150 million for the total cost of completing the campus has been revised, based on the redesign, Sokolsky clarified.

He said the new plans would cost the same as the original ones, but part of the money would be redirected downtown.

The Koffler museum and gallery were originally going to be part of the new Bathurst JCC. The Ontario Jewish Archives would remain in their current location on the Sherman campus.

Sokolsky said the federation has “an opportunity for a downtown space,” but that it is too early to release details.

The location “would provide much more traffic and access to the general public, and help drive revenues a lot better,” he said.

As a result, the complex of buildings on the Sherman campus could be 12,000 square feet smaller than planned. A new Leah Posluns Theatre would still be built there, as well as Koffler Centre offices and facilities.

Phase 1 of renovations on the Bathurst Street site cost $40 million, including the $10-million Donald Gales Family Pavilion, which houses a daycare, fitness facilities and classes as part of the Prosserman JCC, the entity that will include the new JCC building.

Sokolsky said the federation was looking for space farther south because of a “major expansion” of the Jewish community in that part of the city. The federation already has two venues downtown, the Miles Nadal JCC at Bloor Street and Spadina Avenue, and the Wolfond Centre for Jewish Campus Life. However, Sokolsky said, it “became clear that we need to have a greater downtown presence.”

The federation began looking for a location about seven months ago, he said. “We’re looking to share land with interested institutions.” He is hoping to make an announcement about a downtown location before the summer, he said.

Construction for the mid-town Prosserman JCC will take place on what is now an empty field, and there will be no disruption of services for current members, Sokolsky said.

After the BJCC closed in September 2009, the Gales Pavilion opened the following month. There are almost 800 fitness members using the facility, Sokolsky said. A year ago, there were 700, about 80 more than the previous year. Before the BJCC closed, it had more than 1,200 fitness members.

Sokolsky said the Bathurst site, which includes the Lipa Green Centre, is “busier than ever.” The centre houses federation offices, two youth organizations, and various agencies, and will undergo a $3-million renovation (the next phase of renovations), beginning next month.

Farther north, the federation’s Lebovic Jewish Community Campus in Vaughan is also growing. Its JCC, the Schwartz-Reisman Centre, which opened in fall 2012, has almost 6,000 members and its daycare centre is full, Sokolsky said. As well, plans to build a theatre on the east end of the building “are moving ahead.”

Bialik Hebrew Day School will open a branch at the campus this fall.

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