If Steven David was frustrated with the 3 year delay to get the proposal approval, the Founding Board took another 6 years before we completed the project. We were faced with multiple delays for various reasons including Ministry of Housing (MOH) and city by-law requirements.
One such drawn-out delay was the Province’s inability to decide if they wanted to lease the land for 99 years or sell it outright. Eventually in 1991 it was determined that a purchase of sale would be the choice of the government. It was an interesting undertaking as we entered into an offer to purchase the first Crown Land referred to as the Provincial Homes First Initiative. The agreement to purchase was between the vendor HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN and the purchaser the Church-Lombard Housing Co-operative. I was privileged to sign the document as the purchaser although much to my feigned dismay Her Royal Highness was not there to sign off as the vendor.
From the time of purchase and throughout the construction process Donna and I as (President and Treasurer) signed our names on cheques totally millions of dollars.
Deputations and various meetings
From 1988 through 1994 and beyond, it was my responsibility to attend various meetings with provincial representatives, MPP’s, City Councillors, lawyers and architects to name a few.
In 1990 and 1991 were very busy years for the Founding Board, LCDF and our architects. The Board reviewed Pilot Places requirements, their lease and our construction budget. We also had to address the various changes required from the City to build to the specifics of the proposal. Under advisement of LCDF we considered various sub-contractor proposals e.g. excavation, concrete provider, electrician, plumbing, locksmith, elevator installers, bathroom and kitchen providers, painters, glass installers, forming and drywall installers to name only a few. Eventually contracts were entered into and signed by Donna and myself. We also signed all the cheques to the contractors on a regular basis. It was an overwhelming experience but one that was interesting as we moved forward.
I attended meetings at the City with several departments that were required to approve the architectural design and the construction phase. It was multidimensional to say the least. We sometimes attended in groups or me as a stand-alone based on the requirements.
As President, I made several deputations to City Council and relevant Committees such as Committee of Adjustment, Land Use Committee, City Planning, Rezoning and Public Works seeking approval to proposed variances or existing bylaws, codes and city restrictions. I also became active in lobbying City Councillors for support in advance of our deputations when we had to attend City Council where fortunately they voted in favour of the various committee decisions and amendments.
The first time I made a formal deputation was particularly stressful. I was advised I would be speaking at 7 p.m. although it was 10:40 p.m. before I was called.
My gratitude always to Jack Layton who thought it amusing that I was so nervous. He chuckled as he noticed my knee’s knocking and hands shaking. He gave me some words of wisdom that I maintain to this day and encouraged me to speak directly and plea to the need for the co-op to be built. At that particular meeting our request for a variance was approved on the proviso that we provide retail space on Richmond Street.
It is interesting to note that between the time of that requirement and the time of our construction, the downtown core had for a significant time became a ghost town for office space. It took the co-op about 5 years to find a suitable and interested tenant and to which we had lost revenue.
It was also pre-amalgamation so we often had to deal with Metro Toronto as well as the City of Toronto. E.g. Richmond was a city street, Lombard was a Metro street. During construction and in accordance with bylaws, on Richmond we only needed a flag person during the time of excavation and concrete being poured as they exited Richmond Street. Whereas for the dump and cement trucks to enter the property from Lombard St. we required paid duty police officers.
City Council also played a significant role in the architectural designs of the co-op. They were specific to certain requirements and one being that we could not build more than 8 floors as we would obstruct the corridor view from Dundas Street looking south on Dalhousie Street to the St. James Church Steeple. Therefore, we could only put 2 extra floors on the south building to the west of the corridor. We also had to meet density requirements. John Cowle and Ken Chow (our architects) did various designs to meet all the needs set upon us. We had little latitude in the building placement on the parcel of land. It was decided that instead of giving more frontage to both buildings, we could build to the street and provide our future members with a courtyard. We also had limited options regarding the driveway. It had to be open for emergency vehicles as per city requirements. We were not allowed to entertain the thought of gating either entrance of the driveway. One of the options we did have was the cosmetic appearance of the buildings and we were clear we wanted solid brick on the exterior. We were also clear that we did not want a ‘cookie cut’ design and asked for a variety of unit layouts.