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Crescent School's Manor building, in Toronto, in an undated file photo.

Crescent School

One of Toronto’s premier private schools for boys has agreed to pay $42-million to acquire the land under the Bob Rumball Canadian Centre of Excellence for the Deaf (BRCCED).

Toronto’s Crescent School, a boys-only school that offers grades 3 to 12, will take over the almost seven-acre site at 2395 Bayview Ave., next-door to its campus sometime in the next three to five years after the BRCCED is able to relocate all its residents and services.

“I think the concept that the school might have an opportunity to expand its footprint if the Rumball centre were to move dates back before me,” said headmaster Michael Fellin, who said the deal will help solidify a multi-decade growth plan the school has been working on in the seven years since he took the job. “Most of our campus is ravine, so there’s nowhere to go east [or south]. So for a lot of reasons [Rumball] was always occupying the imagination of people.”

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The school beat out other offers in a competitive process, but despite the significant sum the terms and the aim of the deal ended up being more important than the dollars and cents, according to Derek Rumball, president of the BRCCED and son of Bob.

“Money is important to what I do but it’s not the motivation for what we’re doing,” Mr. Rumball said. “We made a good deal, a fair deal and it provides us with very good seed money for the next step. The Crescent School is going to be vital in the success of the next phase of Rumball and we want to believe we’re going to be vital to the next phase of the success of the school.”

Mr. Fellin and Mr. Rumball both say they cultivated a friendship over the years as heads of neighbouring institutions and would often muse about what the two organizations needed to do to expand. “I think that was the foundation upon which this whole transaction was built on. … It culminated in years of conversation around our long-term plans were,” Mr. Fellin said.

An aerial view of the two properties. Crescent School and its playing field are to the right, with the Bob Rumball Centre to the left and Bayview Avenue at bottom.

Crescent School

The two organizations have some parallels in how they ended up being neighbours. Crescent was founded in 1913 in Rosedale and relocated more than once before it landed on its Bayview campus in 1970. The BRCCED sprang out of the Evangelical Church of the Deaf, founded in 1925, which relocated from Church and Wellesley in the late 70s to the Bayview site at the time of the founding of the Ontario Community Centre for the Deaf by the church’s pastor Bob Rumball. In 2016, after Mr. Rumball’s death, the centre was renamed in his honour.

BRCCED is supportive housing for 75 residents, a number Mr. Rumball would like to triple when they relocate. Mr. Rumball said much of the interest in his current site – which is across the street from the exclusive Granite Club and around the block from Toronto’s immensely wealthy Bridle Path neighbourhood – came from condominium developers in some cases offering more money than what Crescent School agreed to, but with restrictions and limitations that he didn’t think were worth the trade-off.

“I’ve had tire kickers since 2008 come to the door, and everyone would say ‘We’ll give you X number of dollars but we need you out in 90 days,’” Mr. Rumball said.

As yet, there’s no firm plan for what Crescent will do with the land. Mr. Fellin said the school is not planning on increasing its enrolment (there are about 760 students) but plans may include facilities that enrich the education of the current student body. For his part, Mr. Rumball thinks Crescent needs its own hockey rink to go along with its high-quality grass playing field. At any rate, any changes to the site will have to wait until Mr. Rumball moves his facilities.

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The money to buy the land was given a kick-start with a $12-million gift from alumnus and Hong Kong real estate executive Ming Wai Lau. Mr. Lau, who spent only his senior year of high school at Crescent and graduated in 1997, previously donated $5-million to a fundraising campaign that wrapped up in 2015, which included the naming rights to the new middle school on campus now called the Lau Family Wing.

“[Mr. Lau] is a leader in our community, and a partner and adviser. … He very early on understood the long-term needs of the school and he saw that if [the Rumball centre] ever became available it would be something that for him we should absolutely do,” Mr. Fellin said. “This is beyond an investment in a property, it’s an investment in the education of our boys and our students.”

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