June 17, 2011.
Our synagogue has enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship with The Leo Baeck Day School, serving the needs of our area’s Reform Jewish community together since 1992. More recently, Leo Baeck has been a strategic partner in our Holy Blossom Renewal Project. I’m writing to tell you that, about a month ago, Leo Baeck and the Temple became aware of an opportunity for the school to purchase its own premises at Arlington Middle School, on the west side of Cedarvale Park. Earlier this week – after careful review – Leo Baeck was able to seize that opportunity. And while our own Renewal Project will move ahead without hesitation (as discussed below), this was the proverbial “offer you can’t refuse” for Leo Baeck and made good sense for them for a number of reasons.
The Argument for Arlington.
I’ve included in this package Leo Baeck’s letter to their own parent body (click here), which fully outlines the chronology of how this opportunity came to fruition and the many benefits of Arlington. But briefly, Arlington is a highly coveted school site on the western edge of beautiful Cedarvale Park – it’s literally the school’s backyard – with acres of green space, a softball diamond, a soccer field, indoor and outdoor skating rinks, tennis courts and a children’s garden. With 90,000 sq. ft., the building itself is a well-designed school with facilities that meet Leo Baeck’s needs now and offer opportunity for future expansion. Renovation will commence this coming September and continue for one year. Students will remain on our campus through the whole of the 2011/12 school year. The new Leo Baeck Day School, South Campus, is planned to open in September 2012.
One other important factor in Arlington’s favour: the total cost of acquiring the new school, making the necessary renovations and moving in, is projected to be substantially less costly than Leo Baeck’s portion of our joint Renewal Project.
And so, while the synergies created by our Temple and the School have been undeniable over the years, and the respect and admiration mutual, we wish Leo Baeck well and know that while our physical partnership may be ending, our spiritual partnership will remain strong and we have a very good and very close new neighbour. We thank them for their considerable contribution to the life and vitality of our campus over the years.
Our own Renewal Project. Renewed.
While the above certainly represents a significant change to our thinking regarding renewal at Holy Blossom, it also presents a real opportunity for us. Here’s what I mean:
All of our major donors have strongly reaffirmed their commitment to our Renewal. With $18.7 million raised thus far, and with the costs of the project expected to significantly decrease in a smaller post-Leo Baeck plan (as we will be able to re-use more of the existing school wing), we are now actually closer to reaching the 85% of our total costs threshold than we were before. How much closer will be better known when Diamond and Schmitt, our architects, finish re-working and re-costing our plans and drawings. Within the next few weeks, our re-imagined concept plan will be ready to be shared with the congregation.
What will not change are the vision and values that have always driven the project – a completely transformed physical space that fosters a deeper sense of religious community within our congregation. And so, a beautiful central atrium/gathering space for kiddush and informal gathering will still be part of the plan. So too is our sanctuary – fully restored to it former splendour – as well as a new larger family chapel, a completely renovated social hall for simchas and congregational events, an updated Holy Blossom Religious School and Pre-School wing, and new office and administrative space.
So, what’s next?
As soon as Diamond and Schmitt’s new concept plans are completed, I will send them out in a follow up package for your review. By that time we’ll also have a good estimate of our revised (lower) project costs and this information will also be included in the package.
We also want to give you the opportunity for feedback. We want to hear your thoughts and ideas on the new plans. Please write to any member of the project team at [email protected], or contact me personally at [email protected] or 416-488-7991. With so many of us being away through the summer months, we’ll have a Congregational Gathering in the fall to share thoughts and update everyone on the project. Watch for the date in your follow up package as well.
Let me close by expressing our deep appreciation for the long hours of dedicated work and commitment to the project by so many of our members and staff. In particular, I wish to thank those who have worked tirelessly during this last month of change, knowing full well that our task continues as we move towards our Renewal Project anew.
I wish you all a safe and enjoyable summer.
Mark S. Anshan