An Important Spring Update on our Renewal Project
Spring is the natural time of renewal, so what better time to update you on the exciting news surrounding our Renewal Project at Holy Blossom?
As you’ve been reading in our bi-weekly Construction updates, all of the extensive preparatory work of Phase 1 construction is now complete and we are only about one month away from our selected general contractor, Pomerleau Construction, beginning the much anticipated construction of the balance of Phase 1 of our Renewal Project. More on Pomerleau in a moment, but as a reminder, the preparatory work undertaken since the start of Phase 1 construction over a year ago, has been necessary to ready our School Wing to house all of the Holy Blossom people, programs and activities you so enjoy. This enables us to remain on campus and operational at 1950 Bathurst St throughout all of Phase 1. (Here’s a link to a handy location guide, if you’re looking for the temporary locations of all of your favourite Temple people, over the next 18 months.)
Here’s what you’ll soon begin to see taking shape: a transformative, light-filled Atrium that connects people to all places throughout Temple, but more importantly, a place where we can connect with each other; our new Family Chapel (located in the former Eisendrath auditorium); our new Library, Café, Youth Lounge, Administrative Wing and much much more, all in a LEED Silver Certified, environmentally-friendly and secure building. For a reminder of what our new spaces will look like, please review the full colour renderings and floor plans here.
Now, back to Pomerleau. An extremely highly regarded firm in the institutional, industrial and commercial construction field, Pomerleau submitted the best price for the completion of Phase 1, in competition with five other pre-qualified general contractors. As you know from our Renewal updates, ALL of the competing bids came in quite a bit higher than anticipated, when measured against the estimates prepared by our cost consultant almost two years ago. Over the last few months, we’ve been engaged with Pomerleau and our architects at Diamond Schmitt in a meticulous value-engineering exercise with the aim of getting the cost of the rest of Phase 1 construction as low as possible, while maintaining the design integrity and quality of our Project.
Here is where we now stand: Phase 1 of the Renewal Project is anticipated to cost $28.5 million, including construction contingencies, plus an additional “just in case” overall Project contingency of $1 million, bringing the total to $29.5 million. This is an “all-in” number and includes not only hard construction costs for the preparatory work that’s already been completed and the work still to come, but also all of the land purchases to date, fees for our architects and other consultants, furniture and equipment costs, transition, fundraising, and financing costs and much more. This is what it will cost to make our Temple not only viable in the present, but vital for our children, grandchildren and future generations of the Jewish community in Toronto.
We recognize this figure is higher than the $22.5 million we announced in the fall of 2014, based on the schematic design drawings then in place. And there are many factors for this (not the least of which is that an estimate is just an estimate until a project has been fully scoped by construction firms in a competitive bidding process): the current state of our Canadian dollar; recent changes in the economy; and escalating prices in the construction trades. What hasn’t changed is the Project itself; there has been no expansion of scope.
At a special meeting of our Temple Board held recently, there was unanimous authorization to proceed with the balance of construction of Phase 1 of Renewal, as soon as possible. The Board also authorized the negotiation of a final agreement with Pomerleau, based on its scope of the work after the value-engineering exercise and its anticipated cost. We are pleased to announce that, as of early this week, our agreement with Pomerleau is now in place, as is our construction financing with our tremendously supportive bank, CIBC.
Fundraising continues to be strong for Renewal. And so is our collective confidence. We have spoken with many of our generous donors in the last number of weeks, all of whom have reinforced their commitment to the Project. In fact, many have increased their gifts to Renewal. We are currently at more than $20.5 million raised for Phase 1, having added $500K since the start of 2016. A portion of this total will form an exciting challenge match for our congregational fundraising: more about this in the weeks to come. And perhaps the best news of all: for the first time in quite a while, membership in Holy Blossom is growing again.
Over the next few months, we will be expanding our fundraising activities and we ask each of you to consider what will be an aspirational contribution from your own family. Our Renewal Project will only truly succeed when all of our congregants give generously, each according to his or her means. Our intention has always been, and continues to be, to raise funds through voluntary contributions and not to levy the congregation in any way.
But beyond the dollars, it’s what our donors and prospective donors are saying about Holy Blossom – how they express the impact of our Temple on their lives and on the lives of their families, coupled with why Renewal is so important to our future – that is truly inspiring. We’d love for you to watch a small video sample of this right here – from footage we’ve just shot to support our Renewal fundraising efforts. It’s a powerful reminder that the value of Renewal is ultimately so much more than bricks and mortar or even the money it will take to get there.
As Toronto’s first synagogue, established in 1856, Holy Blossom Temple is interwoven into generations of who we are as Jews. It’s had a profound effect on us – through prayer, education and acts of social kindness – as individuals and families, but also in the example we set for the Jewish community in Canada and the world. Our Renewal Project is our generation’s chance to build upon the courageous leadership of our predecessors and ensure the impact of our synagogue will continue to be felt by our children and grandchildren, for generations to come.
Renewal of Space. Renewal of Spirit.
Chair, Renewal Project Steering Committee
Chair, Renewal Project Building Committee
Rabbi Yael Splansky