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Renaming Yonge-Dundas Square could cost as much as $600K


The price tag to rename Yonge-Dundas Square to Sankofa Square could be as much as $600,000 more than originally anticipated, the city says.

The rising budget for the project is expected to be considered by members of Olivia Chow’s executive committee as part of a wider update on the file that is on the agenda for a meeting next week.

Responding to a series of questions posed by Coun. Stephen Holyday, City Manager Paul Johnson said in a May 21 letter this year, that the design fabrication and installation of new signage is expected to cost somewhere between $105,000 and $200,000.

The city has budgeted $105,000 in capital funds and $230,000 in the operating budget to support the renaming, with that money coming from Section 37 funds charged to developers to help pay for community benefits.

However, Johnson also said that additional potential costs associated with renaming the square have been identified and they could run an extra $300,000-$600,000.

Those costs include branding, programming, and diversity equity and inclusion costs such as board and staff training, supplier awareness and "talent development," according to the letter.

"These investments will help confront anti-Black racism and support reconciliation," Johnson wrote.

He noted that some of those efforts "may be scaled back" depending on the success of fundraising efforts by the square through financial partners and in-kind support.

The letter, which forms part of an update to the Executive Committee on the status of the renaming efforts, was released this week ahead the committee's next meeting on June 18.

City Council voted back in December to rename the square on the advice of an advisory committee, which selected the name Sankofa Square.

The word sankofa originates in Ghana and refers to "the act of reflecting on and reclaiming teachings from the past which enables us to move forward together."

The motion followed a campaign to rename city assets which had been named after Henry Dundas. Proponents argued that the assets should be renamed because Dundas voted to delay the end of the transatlantic slave trade, though critics of the move have said that his vote to delay the end of the trade was a compromise which ensured that some form of the bill would be passed.

While the city originally planned to rename Dundas Street, it opted for a compromise last year, moving to rename Yonge-Dundas Square, as well as Dundas subway station and to put renaming plans for the street on hold.

Toronto Metropolitan University agreed to pick up the $1.7 million tab for renaming the subway station after the university.

Coun. Chris Moise said at the time that he would use Section 37 funds to cover the cost of renaming the square.

It was estimated that renaming the entire street could cost as much as $13 million.

While the current plans spends significantly less than renaming the entire street, polls have found low public support for the renaming.

A governance and operational review of Sankofa Square is recommending that it continue its current board of management governance structure, but create a multi-year strategic plan and business plan "to refresh the Square's objectives."

Operating the square as a civic square similar to Nathan Phillips Square, the report said, could narrow its mandate to charitable and community events rather than commercial events and limit its ability to conduct fundraising that would offset the city's costs.

The report also found that "safety and the perception of safety impact the experiences of businesses, residents and visitors and is an urgent challenge that must be addressed" at the square.

It noted that some events there have been cancelled over safety concerns.

The fee structure for using the square is also perceived as a barrier to hosting events there, the report says. 

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story attributed the responses to questions about renaming costs to City Clerk John Elvidge. While the questions were addressed to Elvidge, the responses were supplied by City Manager Paul Johnson. Top Stories

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