Businessman Vic De Zen has donated $10-million to help build a new 350-bed hospital in Vaughan, Ont., becoming the largest individual donor to contribute to a $250-million community fundraising campaign.
The Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital, slated to open in 2020, is the first new hospital to be built in the region in 50 years and will be located near Highway 400 and Major Mackenzie Drive, just north of Canada's Wonderland amusement park.
The hospital's lobby will be named the Vic De Zen Family Welcome Centre in honour of the donation, said Ingrid Perry, chief executive officer of the Mackenzie Health Foundation, which is the fundraising body for the new hospital.
Mr. De Zen, founder of plastics company Royal Group Technologies Ltd., now owns the ZZen Group of Companies Ltd., a private company that includes a large plastics extrusion business that builds vinyl building parts, including window frames, doors, decking and railing. The company has 10 plants in Vaughan, employing about 2,500 people.
Mr. De Zen, 74, said he has always supported local causes in Vaughan, and agreed the region needed a second hospital given its rapid population growth. He said he has donated almost $1-million to the existing Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital in the region over the years.
The Ontario government has not disclosed the construction cost for the new hospital yet, but will pay the lion's share of the cost while requiring the community to raise $250-million toward the total, Ms. Perry said. The foundation hopes Mr. De Zen's announcement and the launch of construction on the building will spur more donations.
"These are major fundraising appeals and until the project starts construction, communities often wait to see that," Ms. Perry said. "So Mr. De Zen's gift is truly inspirational for us, but it also challenges the rest of the community to step up."
Mr. De Zen's donation is the largest to date for the hospital from an individual donor, although auto-parts maker Magna International Inc. has also donated $10-million to the project and will have its name on the emergency department.
Mr. De Zen founded Royal Group Technologies in 1970, but was forced out of the company in 2004 amid an investigation into related-party deals. He and five other former executives were eventually charged with fraud in connection with two related-party transactions, but a judge found them all not guilty in 2010, saying there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
After leaving Royal Group, Mr. De Zen founded ZZen Group, which includes a large real-estate division that owns industrial, warehouse and commercial space. The plastics company's 11th manufacturing plant – a 340,000-square-foot extrusion facility – is scheduled to open in January, Mr. De Zen said. It is expected to significantly boost total annual sales to $600-million from $500-million currently.
ZZen partner Joseph Sgro said Mr. De Zen has been a major source of development in Vaughan – and especially his Woodbridge neighbourhood in the city – so it was no surprise he supported the new hospital project.
"He's one of the pioneers in the city of Vaughan, one of a few families that started early in creating the employment he has," Mr. Sgro said.
"He really felt the obligation to step up this time and to assist. It's the largest project that Vaughan and York Region will see in history and Vic felt that he needed to take a leadership role."
In addition to the hospital donation, Mr. De Zen has also pledged $1.25-million to build a new day-program location in Vaughan for the Meta Centre, an organization that provides programming and housing for people with developmental disabilities. The Meta Centre runs five day-program locations in the Toronto area, as well as 18 residential homes.
The building will be called the James De Zen Centre of Abilities in memory of Mr. De Zen's younger son, James, who died last year at age 46 while on vacation in Las Vegas.