General Synod finally about to take over problematic new building

Published June 1, 2006

After two years marked by delays and numerous post-occupancy construction problems, General Synod (the national office of the Anglican Church of Canada) was finally to assume ownership of its new office at 80 Hayden St., Toronto, last month. “We’ve made predictions before and I always get skewered, but I will try again,” said General Synod treasurer Peter Blachford. “I would hope that assuming everything goes the way we hope it’s going, we will be able to close the building by the end of May.”At press time, Mr. Blachford said General Synod’s lawyers and the building’s developer, Philmor Ltd., had addressed a “big issue” that had stood in the way of closing the deal on 80 Hayden. (General Synod officers and staff moved out of the old office at nearby 600 Jarvis St. in June 2004 after the property was sold to Philmor, a Toronto-based developer specializing in mixed-use residential and office complexes. General Synod negotiated office space of about 40,000 square feet – the first four floors of the 21-storey building – at Philmor’s 80 Hayden property as a condition of the $3.65 million sale in 2002 of the Jarvis Street building.)Mr. Blachford said lawyers for both sides had to sort out issues relating to taxes. The developer wants a residential classification “which means each owner of each unit will then get their individual tax bill from the city,” said Mr. Blachford. “It didn’t help our scenario; our taxes were paid, although the money is being held by our lawyer,” he added. “But we had to satisfy our title insurance company so that our bankers would be happy that we were buying a property that didn’t have a huge tax debt attached to it. We think we’ve got that solved now.” Mr. Blachford acknowledged, however, that some construction issues were still being addressed as of press time. The most outstanding concern involved fixing a leaking vent in the mechanical room, which is housed above the General Synod archives vault – putting its collection of historical materials at great risk of being damaged.Unless the situation is addressed, staff also faced the possibility of enduring a summer without air conditioning, since turning it on causes water to leak into the archives vault. In a catch-22 situation, though, the collection also faces the risk of being destroyed from heat and humidity if the air conditioner is not turned on. “Philmor has acknowledged that that is (its) cost to get that fixed,” said Mr. Blachford. As of press time, however, the situation – first reported last November – had not been addressed, causing General Synod archivist Nancy Hurn to write to Philmor expressing “great concern” over the fate of the collection. The extensive collection includes paper, newsprint, photographic prints/negatives, microfilm, motion picture film, audio and video tapes, digitized documents and images of early Anglican-Canadian church missions overseas as well as the Missionary Society of the Church of England in Canada. (Philmor Ltd. did not return phone calls from the Journal.)Jim Cullen, the former General Synod treasurer who is currently acting comptroller, said he had been aware that the mechanical room was situated above the archives vault and saw nothing wrong with its placement there. “It (mechanical room) shouldn’t be posing problems,” he said, adding that it was “the ideal place, the right place” to put it because the floors were specially-designed to hold extra weight and also, it faced a back wall. Mr. Cullen was the chief negotiator for the sale of the old building and the acquisition of the new one. “In hindsight, it makes no sense at all to have a mechanical room on top of archives,” added Archdeacon Jim Boyles, former General Synod general secretary, who was involved in the moving process. “But at that time, we had thought that the building would be constructed so that there wouldn’t be those kinds of leaks.” Mr. Boyles acknowledged that General Synod should have hired a project manager “at an earlier time, who could have kept an eye, a closer eye on developments as they went along.” He added, “Those are things you learn on hindsight and I don’t think it’s likely that the church will be in the building business again for a long time.”


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