A long awaited and needed project, dedicated to the elderly Portuguese speaking Canadian communities is under development right here in Toronto. The Magellan project is an ambitious one that intends to be a game changer for the luso community, helping aging members with appropriate care, housing, and most of all, keeping and celebrating the cultural aspects of the Portuguese heritage—whether it’s the language or food or keeping the spirit alive and honouring the history of those who worked so hard and have helped to build this country.
In order to make this dream a reality, a lot of people have already stepped up and contributed, with monetary donations, volunteering their services or simply promoting the cause—but a lot more is needed. This edition of Milénio Stadium is dedicated to showing our community the progress and needs of this project.
In this interview with Charles Sousa, Chair of Magellan Community Charities, he talks us through the major milestones already achieved such as municipal licenses and other bureaucratic demands and explains the project timeline. He points out that we all must step up to make Magellan a reality. Explaining that the organization is still working on raising the much-needed donations and are dedicated to keep building awareness to this cause. Sousa reminds us that the time is now: the project is already a reality, but more efforts are needed to put shovels in the ground. It’s about honouring our past and building a brighter future and of course promoting the Portuguese heritage legacy.
Milénio Stadium: How is the Magellan Community Centre project moving?
Charles Sousa: The Magellan project will provide critical support and protection for countless individuals in our community who are in need and deserve proper elder care. It’s important to know that the project requires community engagement to succeed. É uma Casa Portuguesa – Casa Magalhães. Magellan Community Charities is a not-for-profit registered charitable organization. It was created to build and operate a senior long-term care, offering culturally sensitive care to aging members of Portuguese speaking Canadian communities. The Magellan complex is receiving a lot of community attention and government support because it is a unique way to provide continuum of care in a densely populated area. Our building will stack 256 long-term care beds on top of 57 affordable housing units. The home will also feature a half acre public park offering green spaces to the entire community in heart of a Portuguese neighborhood.
The project has achieved major milestones:
- April 2018: Ontario awarded 256 culturally specific licenses
- Mach 2019: City of Toronto awarded the location
- March 2021: Signed an agreement with the city to build affordable units.
- October 2021: Corebuild signed on as the construction manager and Responsive selected as operator.
- September 2022: City approved zoning
- Originating Phase: Sep. 2018 – Oct. 2020
- Planning Phase: Oct. 2020 – Dec. 2021
- Design Phase: Jan. 2022 – Dec. 2022
- Construction Phase: Mar. 2023 – Dec. 2025
- Operational Phase: Dec. 2025
We are currently in the design phase. On June 29th, 2022, the City of Toronto held a council meeting and finally approved the application to amend the Zoning By-Law to permit a seven-story mixed-use building at 640 Lansdowne Avenue, comprising of 57 affordable housing units, 256 long-term care beds, and non-residential space on the ground floor fronting Lansdowne Avenue. While the founding team has overseen preparations for Magellan’s development, we want to enhance the membership of Magellan Community Foundation to manage funding and complement the current working board.
MS: Are there any financial institutions backing the project? How about financing from different levels of government?
CS: We have several financial partners working on the Magellan project including commitment of funds from the Municipal Government, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Federal Government through the Canada Mortgage and Housing grants. We have established arrangements with a senior lender to finance the construction of the project. However, to make the Magellan project a reality we will require $15.2 million in donations from our community. We need your help. Donations can be made here: www.magellancommunityfoundation.ca
MS: This is a huge project that needs a lot of help to succeed. What are you doing to motivate the community and business people/companies to continue helping?
CS: Our community has often complained, and suffered, that we don’t have a home to support our Portuguese seniors in their twilight years. A number of concerned citizens over many years have attempted to start a non-profit home for this very purpose but it stalled due to a lack of government allocation of bed subsidies. While there are some groups who operate private for-profit homes to benefit a return on their investment – Magellan is a charity that solely exists for the benefit of the community and no one else. During my time in office we were able to expand long-term allocations in Ontario’s budget and, more specifically, establish cultural specific licenses to enable a Portuguese speaking home. The current Ontario Government and City of Toronto are fully backing the project. It is time to take advantage of the opportunity. It’s important to reinforce that these licenses translate into $20 million in annual revenue that will fund the mortgage and ongoing operations of the home. We will have sufficient revenue through these licenses and apartment rentals to sustain the project – over time. The ask is raising sufficient capital to build the structure and then “house our home”. We have contracted a renowned builder and a professional team to manage the home.
This is an opportunity to have our very own not-for-profit government subsidized home dedicated to our community. Let’s not squander it. Let’s together raise the balance of capital needed. More volunteers are welcome, as well as leaders with deep pockets, to join the marketing and capital campaign teams. We need more people to tell our story. Many families need our help. Bottom-line, we can’t do this alone.
MS: Now the pandemic is basically behind us do you consider it important that the Portuguese clubs and associations get more evolved with the project?
CS: Yes – it is important for Portuguese clubs and associations to get more involved with the project. This project is critical and long overdue within our community. Many are prepared to raise awareness on the need for safer long-term care especially after the pandemic. Affordable housing in the Magellan project is also very critical to provide independent seniors living. We are always looking to partner with community clubs to bring awareness to this very important and historic project.
MS: What are the next steps for the project?
CS: A number of major donations have been made, but we need more. We will continue to raise capital and plan for more events in 2023. The moment we get shovels in the ground, I am sure more people will engage. But we need help now in order to raise the equity. The licenses and the land will give our Portuguese community a safe and sustainable home to be proud of. The need is critical – the community benefit is tremendous – and it will help promote our Portuguese heritage and legacy.