Posts Tagged ‘university of toronto’
[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto city staff want to see Victoria University pay property tax on Yorkville land”
Mike Smee of CBC News reports on the latest regarding Victoria University’s holding of extensive amounts of Bloor Street West retail property while paying few taxes.
The head of Victoria University tried to convince Toronto councillors the school can come to a deal with the city — without involving the province — about the controversial tax-free status of the land the institution owns in an upscale Yorkville neighbourhood.
William Robins appeared before the government management committee Tuesday to answer questions as city staff want the school to pay taxes on a parcel of land it owns on the so-called mink mile; the school’s tenants include names like Prada, Cartier, and Michael Kors.
“You can understand, I’m sure, that on the face of it, it looks as if some of the city’s most successful and lucrative retailers are potentially getting a break while we are struggling with our revenues at the city,” Coun. Janet Davis said.
While the school — better known as the University of Toronto’s Victoria College — does not pay property taxes on the land, it’s unclear whether it does on the buildings themselves.
“The lease arrangements are complicated,” Robins told the government management committee. “But this is very much part of the ongoing negotiations with city staff, I can assure you that.”
The Toronto Star‘s Ellen Brait reports on how first-year engineering students at the University of Toronto came up with a solution to save the books of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.
When 750,000 volumes of rare books are imperiled by condensation, it’s time to think outside the building.
Since at least 2004, the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library – which houses books including all four of Shakespeare’s folios and a papyrus from the time of Christ – has had a condensation problem. The insulation inside the library has been slowly degrading and condensation has been building up, according to Loryl MacDonald, interim director of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. This also resulted in fluctuations in the temperature, something that can be detrimental to books that need climate controlled environments.
“Over time with those types of conditions mould can grow and affect some of the rare books,” said MacDonald.
The library consulted numerous architecture firms and was told the same thing again and again: construction had to be done in the interior. This would require the books, some of which are in fragile condition, to be moved and the library to be temporarily closed.
Desperate for a different solution, John Toyonaga, manager of the Bindery for the library, saw an ad for a first year problem-solving engineering class and decided to throw the library’s problem into the mix.
David Rider writes at the Toronto Star about how Victoria University, a component of the University of Toronto, owns a Bloor Street West address but pays no property tax owing to mid-20th century legislation. This is news to a lot of people.
The owner of top-dollar land under a swanky Yorkville mall pays zero property taxes to the city — a multimillion-dollar anomaly that infuriated councillors fighting over “scraps” to fund vital services.
Victoria University, a federated college of the University of Toronto, owns 131 Bloor St. W. in the heart of the posh “Mink Mile” shopping strip. Revenue Properties leases the land and owns The Colonnade — 71,156 square feet of apartments plus luxury shops, including Cartier, Chanel and Escada — atop it.
The 1951 Victoria University Act exempts all the college’s land but not commercial buildings. The U of T enjoys the same exemption but voluntarily pays the city about $240,000 a year in lieu of taxes for a few small commercial properties.
City staff estimate the Victoria exemption cost taxpayers $12.2 million between 2009 and 2015.
“This (tax-exempt) designation was meant for property used for education — not to have a profit centre,” said Kristyn Wong-Tam, the local councillor.
The Toronto Star‘s Peter Goffin debunks an old University of Toronto ghost story.
At night, when the University of Toronto is bathed deeply in shadow, Richard Fiennes-Clinton will show you the mark on the oak door, left 160 years ago by stonemason Paul Diabolos’s axe.
He’ll tell of another stonemason, Ivan Reznikoff, killed by Diabolos’s next blow.
He’ll show you the grimacing gargoyles Diabolos carved into the College wall, and tell you that Reznikoff’s spirit walked the campus, until his body was discovered in 1890.
But Fiennes-Clinton, owner of Muddy York Walking Tours, will cut some of that spookiness with a disclaimer.
“I do tell people that it’s a legend, it’s probably been embellished over the years,” he says.
Katie Ingram at MacLean’s reports on how The Weeknd is funding a course at the University of Toronto aimed at reviving the ancient Ethiopian language of Ge’ez.
Along with Greek, Hebrew and Arabic, Ethiopia’s Ge’ez is considered one of the world’s oldest Semitic languages—but you’ve probably never heard of it.
Michael Gervers, a professor in the department of historical and cultural studies at the University of Toronto, believes it’s important to resurrect it. “The entire history of Ethiopia is in this language,” he says. “Everything written up until 1850 was written in Ge’ez, so we have 2,000 years of textual material that people don’t have access to.” It was replaced by Amharic as Ethiopia’s official language.
In 2015, Gervers started a fund to create an Ethiopian studies program at U of T, setting a goal of $200,000 and donating $50,000 of his own money. The dean’s office matched that donation; and this year, so did Abel Tesfaye—the Toronto-born, Grammy-winning R&B singer professionally known as The Weeknd, whose parents immigrated to Canada from Ethiopia in the 1980s.
Tesfaye promoted the cause to his more than four million Twitter followers. “Sharing our brilliant and ancient history of Ethiopia. Proud to support the studies in our homie town through @UofT and @bikilaaward,” he wrote.
This transformation of Wilcocks Street into a pedestrian mall, again described by blogTO’s Derek Flack, sounds fabulous.
Toronto’s inventory of pedestrian spaces is about to get a lot more beautiful. Plans for the revitalization of Wilcocks Street were recently revealed by U of T at an open house, and the designs from DTAH Architects look auspicious. Improvements include a new tree canopy, social gathering spaces, a basketball court and a complete revamp of the current landscaping.
The city first experimented with making Wilcocks a pedestrian-only zone, between Huron and St. George streets, back in 2010 on a pilot basis. Upon conclusion, it permanently closed the street to traffic. Since then, the closure has retained a haphazard look with oversized planters to block cars and some patio furniture to capitalize on the space.
Now it will get the full design treatment it deserves. The plans are in their early stages, but in addition to the beautification, it’s possible that the section of Wilcocks between Huron and Spadina will also be closed to traffic. At a minimum, it will be converted into a shared street with a heavy focus on the pedestrian realm.