New TTC head office plan draws fire

A proposal for a new Toronto Transit Commission head office has come under fire.

A proposal for a new Toronto Transit Commission head office has come under fire.

At a closed-door meeting scheduled for Thursday, TTC commissioners will consider the proposal to build a new head office at 4050 Yonge St., at the intersection of York Mills Road.

Officials say the plan, which would replace the 54-year-old headquarters at Yonge and Davisville, will save the commission money in the long term.

Built in 1956, the TTC's current office needs about $30 million in upgrades for everything from new windows to upgraded sprinkler and heating systems.

Also, the current head office can only accommodate about 300 staff, leaving about 700 more employees scattered in leased offices across the city. In a statement released Wednesday, the TTC claims leasing the extra office spaces costs about $8.6 million annually.

Details of government real-estate matters are kept secret but the new office would likely involve a long-term lease agreement with Build Toronto, a city agency designed to maximize profit from the city's real estate assets.

Money should be put into stations: Smitherman

The TTC statement said it will only back the plan if it makes financial sense but mayoral candidate George Smitherman was quick to criticize the proposal Wednesday, saying the TTC should instead put money into improving service.

"They ought to check out the state of some of their stations," he said. "If you think that [head office] building is in bad repair, come on a tour that any transit user is experiencing every single day."

TTC chair Adam Giambrone said the new office is needed for extra staff required by the Transit City and Spadina subway line expansions and would save money in the long term.

"If we're moving into new space that is cheaper from a rent perspective and we can save $30 million, obviously that works well," Giambrone said. 

However, Coun. Karen Stintz agrees with Smitherman, telling CBC News she had heard the new office will cost $200 million and include a museum.

"I have great reservations with the plan that's been put forward," Stintz said.