The Theatre Centre, a charitable organization founded in 1979, is a nationally recognized live arts incubator that serves as a research and development hub for the cultural sector. Located in Toronto, Ontario, The Theatre Centre is a unique facilitator for independent artists and companies, providing crucial infrastructure and resources for them to make their art – from idea to production. With a mandate to support artists wishing to develop works of an experimental nature, the Theatre Centre provides space, mentorship, and exposure through carefully conceived programing. The organization also serves as a public space, open and accessible to the community, where citizen can imagine, debate, celebrate, protest, unite, and be responsible for inventing the future.
The Challenge and Solution
In late 2005, the Theatre Centre began discussions with the City of Toronto about the Carnegie Library at 1115 Queen Street West, in the heart of downtown Toronto. The Theatre Centre was looking to expand its offerings and saw an opportunity to return the heritage site to its former glory as a cultural hub. In a highly competitive process, the organization was selected by the City of Toronto to redevelop and lease the City owned property. The City of Toronto agreed to invest $1 million toward the renovations which included: restoration the Edwardian façade, creation of a performance space with seating for 200 as well as a green-roofed terrace event space, development of a fully equipped laboratory to support artists’ experimentation and rehearsal, a retrofit of the lobby to include a café with city views, and finally, establishment of an extensive gallery space for visual and media arts.
With construction completed January 2014, The Theatre Centre has secured roughly 90% of its total funding requirement through grants, sponsorships, and donations to its capital campaign. The organization will use a bridge loan from the Community Forward Fund to help with ramping up operations. The loan will bridge the collection of committed funding and the capital which has yet to be raised.
“We have seen this scenario play-out time and time again in the social finance space” says CFF CEO Derek Ballantyne. “An organization will be able to secure enough funding for a project, but will experience a delay between needing the cashflow and receiving the committed funding. We are pleased that the Community Forward Fund has been able to provide bridge loans to projects like the Theatre Centre to ensure that renovations and programing are moving forward instead of experiencing delays. The impact that this renovation will have on the City of Toronto will be incredible.”
“Our experience with the Community Forward Fund has been nothing short of amazing”, says Franco Boni, Artistic Director of The Theatre Centre. “Traditional banks are hesitant to provide loans to non-profits, but the Community Forward Fund understood the importance of providing assistance to organizations like The Theatre Centre. They stepped up to the plate. Thanks to their help, when we opened our newly renovated space in March 2014, we were able to immediately launch productions. In the months since, we have experienced an unprecedented level of activity. None of this would have been possible without the support we received from the Community Forward Fund. We are forever appreciative of their help at such a critical point in our growth as an organization.”