Some of the biggest names in Canadian culture gathered in Toronto yesterday for the announcement of the transfer of the former home of the CBC's main English-language radio and TV studios to Canada's National Ballet School.
The property on Jarvis Street in downtown Toronto will be divided in half. The ballet school -- currently located in a patchwork of buildings to the north of the former studios -- will acquire the heritage buildings which used to house the CBC studios for the nominal cost of $1. Context Developments will purchase the rest of the site for $5-million to build high-rise residential condominiums.
"The CBC is passing the torch," president Robert Rabinovitch told a news conference. "We are getting out of being owners of real estate, but the cultural heritage of this site had to be protected, and we wanted to help our sister organization."
Legendary moments in Canadian broadcasting were produced from the Jarvis studios, including The Friendly Giant, The Tommy Hunter Show, Wayne and Shuster, As It Happens, Gilmour's Albums and Sunday Morning. A video of these highlights got loud, sustained applause from the audience of about 200.
Veronica Tennant, a graduate of the National Ballet School and now a CBC producer, said this deal fulfills one of the broadcaster's missions: nurturing young audiences.
The CBC occupied the Jarvis Street site from 1945 to 1996. The studios there were housed in an 1856 building designed for Oliver Mowat, a Father of Confederation. Heritage Minister Sheila Copps -- who expressed concern that Canada has lost 20 per cent of its built heritage -- praised this project for helping "to build the cityscape of what is one of Toronto's architectural jewels -- Jarvis Street."
The ballet school doesn't know yet how it will renovate its new building nor how much it will cost, board member Catherine Delaney said. Context Development's Howard Cohen said plans for the condos have not been finalized either.
The deal, brokered by the City of Toronto, includes municipal approval for zoning changes that will allow the broadcaster to develop the interior and exterior of the CBC Broadcast Centre on Front Street, where its operations were consolidated in 1996.