Initially many of the 4,000 members of the Columbus Centre were prepared to go along with its destruction without protesting. This was despite Villa Charities plans showing a new athletic facility without a health club, without a pool, without a running track, without squash and racquet ball courts, without a TV lounge, with one gym and a change room to be shared with children from Dante Alighieri Academy, without tennis courts, without a coffee shop patio on the treed back campus, with reduced parking, etc. The members did not believe that they could oppose a decision made by a board who was not acting in their best interest. Now, they see that their voice is being heard by forces who can stop the demolishing of the Columbus Centre.
Councillor Josh Colle addressing CASA supporters September 27, 2017
For the last five years Villa Charities has done little to maintain the athletic facilities. Like any 40 year old structure it is in need of cleaning, painting and cosmetic repairs - not destruction. It is suffering from neglect and poor managment.
Some Villa Charities directors wallow in an emphasis on "culture" not seeming to recognize that culture is based upon shared interests of the entire community not a tiny minority who look with disdain upon the athletic facilities, not seeming to recognize that writers, artists and truly creative, cultured individuals work out at the Columbus Centre on a weekly basis.
While CASA may have stopped the destruction of the Columbus Centre, the battle will not be over. It will not be over until individuals from its community are represented on the Villa Charities board. Ideally, this would be done by an election of nominated individuals, for terms of three years. The existing appointed directors should be replaced by elected ones as quickly as possible. We can never let something contrary to the members wishes, like the proposed destruction of the Columbus Centre, ever happen again.
Once proper board representation is achieved then will come the hard work of raising money to make the Columbus Centre great again. We want it to be on a sound financial footing with responsible, capable management. We want the fun times to return to the Columbus Centre with social functions that we all want to participate in. With greatness comes financial success.
COMMUNICATION BY FORMER MPP ODOARDO DI SANTO
From: Odoardo Di Santo
Sent: July 5, 2017 2:23 PM
Subject: Columbus Centre
…. I would like to bring to your attention a project aimed at
the demolition of Columbus Centre which was built at the corner of Lawrence
Ave. and Dufferin St by the Italian Community more than 35 years
ago ,a project that is causing incredible angst to the community.
The building was designed by the Canadian architect Arthur
William Holmes in 1940 as a Girls training school for the Sisters of the
Good Shepherd .It is a vast complex of 16 acres with a great green space
at the centre which is used by those attending Columbus Centre as well
as the residents of Casa del Zotto, Cabot Terrace e Villa Colombo that
Columbus Centre is the focus of the Italian culture, history
social and recreational life. The athletic wing has more than 4000
members. Columbus Centre Rotunda was built with column in the Roman style.
The entrance the Rotunda with ornate Italian marbles has a genuine
Italian flavor with the statues of prominent Italian artists and
scientists of the Renaissance. The Cultural Loops Guide (explore North
York-Art, History and nature page 76) compares The Carrier Art Gallery’s
features to Frank Lloyd Wright’s design of the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
The Carrier Art Gallery is recognized as one of the most important in
The board of Directors of Villa Charities Inc (the umbrella
organization) has secretly entered into an agreement with the
Toronto Catholic district School Board with a plan to:
1)demolish Columbus Centre;
2) divide the site in two blocks;hey plan
build a school (Dante Alighieri Academy) with inside a
leased space for Columbus Centre, reduced by 55 % from its present size.
4) The east block is zoned for apartment
building high rise. The undeclared intent is to build 3000 high rise
3) on the west block, presently zoned for
With the Dufferin Street Secondary Plan allowing
intensification of the area, and the building of high rises the Columbus green
space will disappear while it is most needed.
The Council of the City passed a resolution, moved by Maria
to evaluate the feasibility to declare Columbus Centre a Heritage site. On
May 7, the North York Community Council called for a public consultation
meeting that was held at Yorkdale Secondary School where more than 500
residents voiced their opposition to the destruction of Columbus Centre. The
very next day Villa Charities Inc. in order to circumvent the democratic
process appealed to the OMB. The reaction of the Italian Community has been
overwhelming. Villa Charities replies to the concern of the
community stating that it is a private company even though the Centre was
built with the contribution of the Italian community. The involvement of the
Catholic School Board is also a matter of grave concern. Presently both Dante
Alighieri Academy and Regina Mundi elementary school are operating on Playfair
Ave, a mere 150 metres south on the Columbus Centre. The Provincial
government granted the Catholic Board 31 million dollars in 2011, because of
the “Urgency” of building a new school. The community is asking: why the Board
does not build the new Dante Alighieri Academy on the site of the present
schools that sit on 13 acres of land. And furthermore why the Board has entered
into e secret deal, cooked behind closed door with Villa Charities Inc.
,without public scrutiny and no transparency. There is also concern about the
fact that the school will be a shared facility with a
reduced Columbus Centre, attended by adults. The North York Community
Council unanimously has decided to instruct the staff to oppose the plan
at the OMB.
The Minister of Education has intimated to the School Board not
to proceed with the application for tender given the opposition to
the plan of the MPP Mike Colle, the Local Councillor Josh Colle, and the local
Catholic School trustee Maria Rizzo and the pending evaluation of the City
on the feasibility to declare Columbus Centre a Heritage Site. The Board has
been given 60 days by the Minister to come forward with an acceptable
plan. I thought that Columbus Centre, apart from the historical and
cultural value to the Italian Community, is also an urban issue both for the
heritage value and for the environmental value of the green space, quite rare
in that area….
Thank You for your time and attention.
Odoardo Di Santo