After Gardiner donation, Toronto looks to capitalize on philanthropy

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The AGO expansion, ROM crystal and High Park Zoo are projects that were the result of philanthropy.

 A concept drawing for Project: Under Gardiner, a $25-million plan to convert a stretch of land beneath the Gardiner Expressway into an urban park.

Contributed

A concept drawing for Project: Under Gardiner, a $25-million plan to convert a stretch of land beneath the Gardiner Expressway into an urban park.

Philanthropists Will and Judy Matthews donated the money for “Project: Under Gardiner,” a plan to add walking trails, gardens, markets, and skating facilities to a 1.75-kilometre strip of land under the elevated expressway between Spadina Avenue and the CNE.

Waterfront Toronto will be in charge of delivering the project, but CEO John Campbell said his organization’s current structure requires the Matthews’ money to be funnelled through the city first.

That’s a potential barrier to philanthropic city building, he said.

“There are people out there that want to contribute, you’ve just got to make the vehicle to make it happen,” Campbell said.

“We want to use this as a bit of a seed to prompt that idea, so we’re going to be applying appropriately to create a separate vehicle that will allow [donations] to happen directly.”

Mayor John Tory hopes the Matthews’ unprecedented donation will inspire other wealthy Torontonians to contribute to the city’s development.

“I will tell the people of Toronto, in a friendly sort of partnership way, to come forward with ideas like the Matthews did,” he said. “I assure you at my office and the offices of my council colleagues, you will have a very willing and eager audience.”

The first phase of Project: Under Gardiner will be built on city-owned land between Strachan Avenue and Bathurst Street by July 2017.

Four Toronto projects that were the result of philanthropy

Jamie Bell playground

Torched by vandals in March 2012, the play area in High Park was rebuilt and improved thanks to more than $140,000 contributed by various groups, including Canadian Tire, TD Canada Trust, Lowe’s, the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation, and the philanthropic Sprott Foundation.

High Park Zoo

In 2011, city cuts removed funding for the popular High Park Zoo. Non-profit group Friends of High Park Zoo raised $270,000 and partnered with the Honey family foundation to match community grants up to $50,000. A private donor also contributed $30,000 towards keeping the zoo open into the future.

The Royal Ontario Museum crystal

Michael Lee-Chin’s name was added to the famous crystalline entrance to the Royal Ontario Museum as thanks for pledging $30 million towards the $300 million expansion. A Globe and Mail investigation published in March found Chin and others were still yet to completely fulfill their promises.

The Art Gallery of Ontario expansion

Businessman Kenneth Thomson contributed $50 million towards the AGO’s $170 million Frank Gehry-designed expansion and renovation, as well as a sizeable chunk of his own art collection, which included The Massacre of the Innocents by Reubens—one of the AGO’s most valuable works currently on public display.

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