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Friday, October 9, 2015

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Federation says new JCC to open in 2016

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CJN file photo
$40M needed before project can start

TORONTO — More than a year after the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre (BJCC) was torn down, construction has yet to begin on the building that will replace it, and officials now say it won’t open until 2016.

Fundraising for the new Prosserman JCC is “going very well – better than we estimated,” according to Ted Sokolsky, president and CEO of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, in an e-mail interview.

However, when asked, he did not specify how much had been raised in the past year. Last December, Howard English – at the time the federation’s vice-president of corporate communications – told The CJN that the federation needed to raise approximately $40 million for the project before it could responsibly break ground.

The total cost of completing the Sherman Campus, located on Bathurst Street between Sheppard and Finch avenues, was estimated last year to be about $150 million in total, including about $110 million for Phase 2, which will include the new JCC, a new Koffler Centre of the Arts and Leah Posluns Theatre, and the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre.

Phase 1, which has already been completed, cost $40 million, including the $10-million Donald Gales Family Paviliion, renovations to the Lipa Green Centre and reconstruction of the parking lot.

Last year, English said the new JCC was expected to be finished by 2014, but Sokolsky is now talking about a 2016 opening.

The BJCC closed in September 2009, and the Gales Pavilion opened the following month. It houses fitness facilities and classes as part of the Prosserman JCC, the entity that will include the building replacing the BJCC.

Tearing down the old building saved the federation millions of dollars a year in repairs and operating costs, according to Sokolsky. Having it already demolished “gives us at least a six-month head start when we start construction again.”

Sokolsky said there are currently about 700 paid Prosserman JCC fitness members, which is approaching 80 per cent capacity. Last year there were 620. Before the BJCC closed, it had more than 1,200 fitness members.

He said roughly 4,700 people are involved in centre programs, an increase of 15 per cent over this time last year.

Sokolsky said that plans for the new JCC have been updated, but “all the major elements remain, and the square footage doesn’t change.”

He added: “Our goal is to be in the ground just at the end of 2013. That could mean an opening in 2016.”

He expressed disappointment that the project has been “slowed down,” but added that the Lebovic campus in Vaughan is “moving ahead on time and on budget. All the growth in JCC membership over the last two decades has been north of Steeles.”

The Schwartz-Reisman JCC is expected to open on the Lebovic campus in October, and a northern JCC summer camp is planned for this summer.

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