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Globe and Mail: Save Bloor Collegiate Institute-Redevelopment needs a Rething
Alex Bozikovic | April 6, 2018

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Its time to stop Torontos schools  and its heritage  from crumbling

From Issue No. 268 | April 23, 2018

One hundred and nine years later, the city’s main public school board has sold that very building and more nearby, a total 7.3 acres of public land, to developers – in a Toronto that’s vastly bigger, and growing fast. It’s a short-sighted decision that ignores both heritage and the long-term importance of public land.

Why is this happening? In short, because the Ontario government starves its school buildings of money, and this is destroying cultural heritage as well as damaging the experience of students. This larger issue needs urgent attention, and there’s still a chance at Bloor and Dufferin to combine new development and hold on to some history.


Toronto has sold Kent Public School (pictured) and nearby Bloor Collegiate Institute to a developer.

First, the big picture. At an event on Saturday, I will join the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario to discuss “Toronto School Buildings at Risk.” A quarter of Toronto school buildings, more than 100, are in critical shape, and many more need serious repair. These places are centrepieces in their communities, full of memories and in many cases fine and distinctive architecture.

Why are they at risk? For the past 20 years, a succession of provincial governments has failed to provide school boards with enough money to maintain and construct their buildings. As any public-school parent knows, schools are falling down. The maintenance backlog is huge. The economist Hugh Mackenzie, in a recent report for the Campaign for Public Education, measures it as $15.9-billion and increasing rapidly. The Toronto District School Board’s total is $4.05-billion right now.


That’s billions of dollars in leaking roofs, rotting windows, aging boilers, rusting stairs. And public assets of historic importance, falling apart.

These assets – and those of the Catholic school board – should be managed collectively with the greater good in mind. Right now, they aren’t; the Toronto District School Board is being forced to get rid of space that’s “surplus” to its operations. Which brings us to Bloor-Dufferin. School-board planners have determined that they have too much real estate in the neighbourhood and not many students. In the long term, I strongly doubt that this will be the case. The city is growing rapidly, and the trend is toward denser living in and around downtown. Sooner or later – probably sooner – these public assets will be needed again.

But that 7.3 acres will be gone. The site includes the former Kent Public School, closed by the TDSB years ago, and neighbouring Bloor Collegiate Institute, which has been operating since 1925. In 2016, a group of developers led by Capital Developments and Metropia paid $121.5-million for it.

The sale of Bloor Collegiate Institute (pictured) and Kent Public School will see both torn down and tall condominiums built on the seven-acre property.

That is a lot of money, right? Not really. To cash in, the board will tear down yet another building next door, a 1966 high school now known as Brockton Learning Centre. Demolition will have a cost in the millions. Then they’ll build a new Bloor Collegiate at an estimated cost of $30-million to $35-million. (It will be cheaply built, and probably not very good architecture; that’s another story.) 

In the end, taxpayers will net a new high school and something like $80-million. Against the TDSB’s $4-billion backlog, that’s not even a drop in the bucket. Selling the silverware will not keep this household afloat.

And what’s getting sold are places that have shaped the lives of thousands of Torontonians, and some very good buildings. The old Toronto Board of Education’s in-house architects, between the 1880s and the 1960s, consistently delivered some of the city’s best architecture.

Editors Notes: Don't Miss Toronto Schools at Risk, but if you do ACO Toronto is videotaping and will post the proceedings online about ten days after our session at
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