The Friends of Old City Hall
Citizens serving a Common Good
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ACTIVISTS
The original Friends of Old City Hall (OCH) formed a grassroots movement to save this landmark building for Toronto's future when it was threatened with demolition in the 1960s.
Proposed is a NEW Friends of Old City Hall group as a grassroots support for the City of Toronto's transformation of this National Historic Site beginning in May, 2023.
THE APPROVED PLAN
For almost 60 years, the City has rented OCH to the provincial government for use as criminal courts. However, these are moving to the new courthouse northwest of New City Hall.
In January, 2018, Toronto City Council voted to create within this block-sized building: a Museum of Toronto (MoT), a Toronto Public Library branch, the Marriage Registry office and Wedding Chambers moved back to their original home from New City Hall plus commercial space for cafes, restaurants and shops.
A MODEST STARTING POINT
This site was created in January, 2021, by myself, Cathy Schaffter, as a spark to creating a group which might fund-raise in support of Old City Hall's costly transformation.
I am a reporter in the courts at OCH so I can appreciate its immense potential.
I created the BLOG to stir people's imaginations and welcome any corrections or suggestions via "CONTACT".
DETAILS FROM CITY STAFF - March, 2021
* The estimated cost of OCH's transformation is $60 million. If all that amount is not immediately available, work on OCH will take longer.
* City staff are seeking donations from foundations, corporations and higher levels of government. A grassroots group is welcome to raise funds from individual donors.
* No decisions about the building's development will be made until hearings are held for public input. (One was planned for the doomed, Covid spring of 2020.)
LATEST NEWS: February 16, 2023
In charge of the redevelopment of OCH is CreateTO, the real estate division of the City of Toronto. Jason Chen is the Development Lead for the project and sent this email:
"We are currently undertaking due diligence and feasibility studies to determine the options for the future uses for Old City Hall, as both the Provincial and Municipal Courts will vacate the building later this year.
"Upon completion of our due diligence work we will bring a report to City Council in the fourth quarter of this year, with recommendations that include budget requirements."
GOALS OF THE FRIENDS OF OLD CITY HALL
#1 - Advocacy
In 2023, the City of Toronto is $1 billion in debt. We have a homelessness and affordable housing crisis. And a recession is predicted for the third quarter of 2023...
So there's a danger that stressed politicians could delay or even scrap the approved plans for OCH for the sake of saving money. Yet as a donor to the Daily Food Bank and the Fred Victor homelessness charity, I must argue that liveable cities need to protect BOTH its most vulnerable citizens AND its cultural life!
There have been rumours that part of this unique building could be rented out as classrooms to a downtown university. Or that OCH could house the denizens of Queen's Park during its $1 billion renovation. By the time such decisions are made it will be too late!!!
IF Torontonians don't want our city to miss a chance to create a culturally and economically stimulating civic centre/tourist attraction, the time for action is NOW.
Join Friends of Old City Hall for FREE
If you want Toronto City Council to stick with the basic plan to create in Old City Hall: a Museum of Toronto (MoT), the Marriage Registry office and Wedding Chambers, a Public Library branch and commercial space for restaurant(s), cafe(s) and compatible shops, JOIN Friends of Old City Hall to have your voice heard!
Simply send your name and address including postal code to this site via "CONTACT" to demonstrate your interest.
Your information will be held strictly confidential unless shared with your permission.
By sheer numbers, we can show municipal, provincial and federal politicians AND the media that we want funding to create a superbly designed renovation of OCH and a Museum of Toronto.
Please note: according to a questionnaire of the Toronto Lobbyist Registrar's Office, Friends of Old City Hall should not be considered a lobbyist group.
Further note: If CreateTO staff argue that there isn't room for a library or have other issues, then Friends will bow to their expertise, of course. We just want this unique heritage building to be as accessible and creatively developed as possible.
Who Can Join
Friends of OCH are SO inclusive that the red and blue colours of this site cater to the seven to eight per cent of people who are colour blind!
Age is no requirement so parents and teachers may wish to encourage young people (ie., future voters) to get their first taste of participatory democracy by joining this group.
Economic Reasons to Join
The Museum of Toronto will be FREE since Toronto History Museums are now all FREE. This will add greatly to Old City Hall as an attraction and be very good news for downtown businesses and Toronto's tourism and convention industry.
How will the shortfall be made up?
In part with volunteer-led, money-making tours of OCH under the direction of Toronto History Museums (see: BLOG for possible tour themes) and with an excellent museum giftshop as is planned.
Having a library branch will provide funding for that part of OCH from Toronto Public Libary's budget.
Bringing the marriage registry office and wedding chapel back to OCH will fit in beautifully with rent-paying restaurants offering catering services for receptions held in rented out OCH rooms. Not to mention the value of rent-paying shops offering related services. (See: BLOG about about "Weddings").
Number of Friends as of March 20, 2023: 53.
Imagine the power of 10,000 Friends!
#2 - Fund-raising
News flash: MONEY TALKS.
Needed are people with the collective experience, time and $5,000 (or pro bono legal skills) to establish the Friends as a charitable organization which can provide tax receipts for donations passed on to the City of Toronto for the running of both OCH and the Museum of Toronto. (Sorry, but the author of this website doesn't have that.)
If we raise enough serious funds in 2023, City councillors will be encouraged to okay the kickstarting of OCH's transformation boldly and well. And they will know that there are enough citizens to keep up long-term donations as part of their service to the community.
As a grassroots group, we will welcome and pay out tax receipts to donors of all levels.
Donations of $20 (which can be a lot for some people) might be listed as "Tile" level gifts, comparable to parts of the mosaic floor on the main level. Even one missing tile would be badly missed!
"Brick" level gifts might be $50 donations. And so on with other parts of the building such as "Brass Chandelier", "Mural", "Spiral Staircase", "Fine Masonry", "Fine Woodworking" levels up to (hopefully) the $1 millon+ "Copper Roof" level.
There was a Friends of Old City Hall charitable organization which had its status revoked in 1994 due to "failure to file". So the name is available, and the timing is surely better now because the need is so urgent!
Anyone interested in helping to create this charity, please email by "CONTACT" and indicate if you are willing to be put in touch with others who are interested.