Work at CSI for the day with our new Lounge Pass!

Transforming CSI

We have some big news! 

The world is changing and so must CSI!

We told our members earlier today and now we want to tell you. 

CSI has made the decision to put 720 Bathurst up for sale and consolidate our operations into CSI Spadina.

We are looking for a socially-minded buyer / partner – that’s where you might be able to help.

Here is the whole story.

For almost 20 years, CSI’s mission has been to inspire, support and catalyze social innovation. We like to think that we have played a role in building the social innovation sector here in Canada. We are certainly proud of the over 5000 member organizations that we have supported over the years, the innovations and enterprises that they have fostered and the people that we have inspired to be a part of the solution.  

But the world keeps changing and in order to continue to achieve our mission and to intentionally build the world that we want, CSI has made a series of decisions that we believe will position us for the uncertain and challenging future. This is where we need your help. Every time we are in flux, our community comes together to solve the challenge – like creating community bonds to buy 720 in 2010 or forming the community rent pool to sustain members in 2020. I hope that today will be no exception.

  1. CSI has made the decision to put 720 Bathurst up for sale and consolidate our operations into CSI Spadina as it is larger and can accommodate more members, is in a better long term location and has less future maintenance needs.
  2. We anticipate this process taking between 12-18 months. We don’t anticipate any changes to our operations at CSI Annex until 2025. We hope to welcome as many Annex members as possible to CSI Spadina.
  3. We hope to find a socially-minded buyer who will keep 720 Bathurst working in service to a social purpose. We aim to work with our social purpose real estate colleagues and the progressive development community to find the right buyer. This is why we are engaging the community so early – because we invite your help to find a social purpose, future life for 720 Bathurst that is aligned with the needs of our city.
  4. CSI is in a stable position financially, but interest rates, inflation and work from home have changed the real estate landscape and we want to be proactive in how we are addressing these changes. Consolidating our operations to one location is essential to achieving this. The sale of a building will enable us to reduce or retire our mortgage, thus insulating us from further market volatility.
  5. This decision will enable CSI to deepen our practice and become more intentional about accelerating social innovation. We have always been more than just real estate having accelerated 100’s of social enterprises, operating TechSoup Canada, incubating ONN, SI Canada, Climate Ventures, STEPS, working on Community Wealth in Regent Park, Financialization of Housing and Homelessness Labs, the Impact Dashboard and so much more.

     

    Leveraging the power of collaboration, entrepreneurship and systems change, CSI will deepen our social innovation work through strategic collaborations that emerge from our community and will focus on key themes such as ‘regenerative & land-based solutions’, ‘loneliness and belonging’, ‘climate change’ and more. Working closely with our members, CSI will continue to find, implement and scale innovative solutions – through new ideas, models, creativity, community, technology –  to work towards the systems change required to create the world we want. 

We know that many of us are deeply connected to CSI Annex. Its vibrant community, shabby chic warmth and its overall vibe is really just too beautiful to imagine losing. It was the baby that the first Community Bonds bought – it is deep in our hearts. We know that you will be sad. We are too! But we hope that you can see that this decision enables CSI to be stronger and more focused on supporting you to make the world better and encourage you to continue to be with us for the many years ahead.

Don’t worry. We are good. CSI is being proactive, strategic and forward looking. The world is changing and so must CSI. Real estate has always been a tactic to get at the change that we want to see in the world. This will give CSI more focus and capacity to help build the world that we want in turbulent times.

If you have any questions, ideas, solutions, potential partnerships, feedback of any sort, we are here for it. We aren’t going anywhere and we are really excited about the creative and potential ideas that will be ignited from this change. Please reach out to questions@socialinnovation.ca with all of it and the right person will get back to you. You can find our FAQs below, and a fact sheet on 720 Bathurst Street here.

The world is changing. We can all feel it. That’s why CSI strives to be an ‘island of sanity’ for a purpose-driven community who drive to solutions proactively. We know that It’s Up to Us. We believe that change happens when people decide to make a difference. We don’t sit back and wait for things to get better: we shape the world in which we live. 

This decision reflects our commitment to this value. We honour and celebrate all of you who step up to lead. We need to be proactive and we need to work together to achieve the systems change that the world so desperately needs. 

Thank you for walking this journey with us. 

In solidarity,

Tonya Surman 
CEO, CSI 

The Back Story
It has become clear that the world is NOT returning to ‘normal.’  Work from home has fundamentally changed the industrial paradigm of work and has had a huge impact on commercial real estate. Interest rates, inflation, energy efficiency and more have all had an impact on CSI’s decision. CSI is committed to being proactive in making decisions before they are made for us. Over the last year, we have looked at CSI’s options.

CSI has been prudent to invest in the real estate market of Toronto, purchasing two properties over the years – 720 Bathurst (CSI Annex) and 192 Spadina (CSI Spadina). These buildings have proven incredibly effective at putting social innovation on the map, bringing community together and forming a core of our business model. Yet the buildings are not CSI – they have always been a means of achieving social impact. 

CSI is about spaces that foster communities that create the connections to unlock innovation. CSI is about proximity, reduced friction and relationships.  CSI is about community, ecosystems and modeling the world that we want. Work has changed and the need for collaboration is greater than ever.

Through our strategic review over the last year, CSI made the decision to put a building on the market so that we ensure the long term sustainability of our operations. By consolidating into one building we can dramatically reduce our mortgage and insulate ourselves from unwieldy market forces. This decision will enable us to become more intentional in how we create social change. 

Today our buildings once again will play a role in our continued success by providing the resources to meet the changes facing CSI going forward. We are committed to the same levels of success in the future and are lucky to have this resource base to take us there. 

Why put Annex on the market and not Spadina?
This was a difficult decision as both buildings and both communities are beautiful and important to us – but a choice needed to be made.

  • Size – Spadina is 64,000 sf as compared to Annex’s 36,000 and thus offers us more space to be able to accommodate more members and more impact work. The larger space will generate more revenue that can be directed to more strategic and programmatic work in the years to come
  • Location – Spadina is centrally located and will be within 200 meters of the new subway line, positioning CSI prominently as a global hub for systems innovation
  • Operational constraints – The future maintenance on CSI Annex is dramatically higher than Spadina. Plus, when we failed to secure funding for essential green upgrades, our projections revealed that ‘modeling the world we want’ by doing these green retrofits would be impossible to afford. 

Invitation to Envision a Future for 720 Bathurst
We are engaging the community (that’s you) extremely early in this process so that we all have time to digest the news. We’d love to germinate new ideas, engage the community’s help in envisioning some potential solutions. In the same way that we came to the community to create the community bonds and the community rent pool, we are coming to you for this too.

We love this community, this building and this location. Ideally, we are looking for a socially-minded buyer / partner. Our dream is that this building is purchased by another social purpose organization or a mission-aligned group while still meeting our financial objectives. This is why we are sharing this news so early. We believe that we – collectively – have the connections, resources and ideas and we just need to ask for help. 

CSI will take the next 6 months to introduce this opportunity to a range of possible buyers. We will be reaching out to:

  • CSI Annex’s existing members to explore possibilities 
  • Community wealth builders in the city of Toronto
  • Social purpose real estate practitioners
  • Social Impact Investors
  • Progressive developers
  • City of Toronto and other government agencies

We encourage and are open to – and look forward to – dreaming up possible uses and exploring various financing possibilities as we look to partner and transform this space into its next iteration. As such we are inviting potential partners to come together in a series of design charettes to explore possibilities. If you have ideas, please share them with us at questions@socialinnovation.ca or with me directly.

We aim to receive offers in Feb/March 2024 and to have a decision by April 2024. This will give us time to negotiate with the partner and ideally close by September 2024. We do not expect any changes for members until 2025.

If you have questions about the transition, please visit our FAQs below and/or reach out to questions@socialinnovation.ca 

FAQs

Why Annex?

  • CSI’s board of directors made the decision to put 720 Bathurst Street on the market to consolidate our operations into CSI Spadina. It can accommodate more members, it is more energy efficient, it requires less investment in maintenance, and it’s in a better long term location. 
  • 720 Bathurst is an older building with more significant energy deficiencies than CSI Spadina. It would cost upwards of $8 million to bring it up to green energy standards. It would also require us to vacate the building for a long time as well.
  • 720 Bathurst requires more maintenance than 192 Spadina; it’s expensive to maintain two buildings and we think that money can be better spent if we’re under one roof. 

Did CSI look at alternatives to placing 720 on the market? 

  • Yes, we did. We obtained an expert independent third party assessment from NBLC of if/how we could develop either 192 Spadina or 720 Bathurst. We ran through a number of retrofitting, financing and real estate scenarios.
  • Repurposing 720 Bathurst was the option that made the most sense. Some of the expenses related to the future maintenance costs and planned investment in energy retrofits, couldn’t be dealt with in another way.  
  • We explored a number of options – everything from ‘do nothing’, to changing our business models, to selling the air rights above 720, to selling both buildings and moving to a LEED certified building. But these ideas were either not advisable or not feasible, and didn’t provide the same financial security and focus needed to position CSI and its members strongly for the future. 

Is this an Artscape/WeWork situation?

  • Totally unrelated. CSI is cash positive and has good relations with our bondholders and banks. This is a smart, strategic, proactive decision. We celebrate Artscape’s accomplishments, and continue to support the arts and innovation sector. 
  • CSI is in a stable position financially, but interest rates, inflation, and work-from-home have changed the commercial real estate landscape significantly. We would be remiss to ignore the signals around us. We are in a position where we can afford to be proactive and address changes to better position CSI for the future.
  • Consolidating our operations to one location is necessary to achieve the impact our community strives to make in the world. The sale of one building will enable us to reduce or retire our mortgages, thus insulating us from further market volatility. Our buildings have always been a tactic to support our members’ work and by consolidating them, we will only strengthen our community. 
  • CSI’s mission is to catalyze social innovation – real estate has been a tactic and not an end in itself. This decision enables us to leverage our real estate in order to focus on our mission.

How does this affect CSI members?

  • We anticipate this process taking between 1-2 years. We do not anticipate any changes to our operations at CSI Annex until 2025. We are committed to welcoming and working with Annex members who want to come along to CSI Spadina. We will continue to communicate transparently with our members throughout this process.
  • This is not a notice to leave. It’s us being transparent about a process we’re undertaking with members and for the long term viability of CSI. It is also an invitation to our members to help us in finding a socially minded buyer.
  • CSI staff will be here to help you through this transition every step of the way. We will share our process, timelines, and updates as we move forward together.

I have an office or a coworking membership at 720 Bathurst. What does this mean?

  • We don’t anticipate any changes happening until 2025! Your space here is secure. Eventually, we’ll start conversations to discuss moving, if you wish, to CSI Spadina. We’ll be working with Annex members who want to come over to CSI Spadina sooner.  

What about events at CSI Annex?

  • If your event is before the fall of 2024, then keep going with your plans. 
  • We’re taking bookings up until December 2024 at CSI Annex. For 2025 events, we suggest CSI Spadina. We will be creating more event spaces at Spadina for your important convenings.

Do we have a Community Management Plan? 

  • Yes, we are going to continue to give lots of care and attention to our members, and we’re drafting plans to make this transition as smooth as possible. 
  • We will start to roll it out this fall and will continually communicate with members about all the angles and implications that affect them and their organizations. We’ll be inviting members from Annex (and Spadina) to participate in the process to the degree they need and want to. 

What will happen to 720 Bathurst?

  • Our hope is that 720 is purchased by another social purpose organization or a mission-aligned group. This is why we are sharing this news so early. We believe that collectively we have the connections, resources and ideas and we just need to start asking. We’d love to germinate new ideas, engage your help, and envision some potential solutions with you – more to come on that soon.
  • In the same way that we came to the community to create the community bonds to buy 720 in 2010 and the community rent pool in 2020, we are excited to collaborate with the community again on this change.

How would that happen?

  • Over the next 6 months we’re reaching out to the social purpose real estate network, community wealth builders, social impact investors, progressive developers, and all levels of government to explore all possibilities. 
  • We’re dreaming up possible uses and exploring various financing possibilities as we look to partner and transform this space into its next iteration.
  • We are inviting potential partners to come together in some design charrettes to explore possibilities. (A charette is a collaborative design process where stakeholders brainstorm and develop solutions together)

Could CSI Spadina meet my needs as well as CSI Annex?

  • Membership fees at the Hot Desk, Dedicated Desk, and Team Table levels will be the same or similar. Office rents are inherently a result of many variables, and will continue to be competitively priced. 
  • 7 Meeting Rooms & 3 Event spaces await you, your staff, and your guests at CSI Spadina.

How do I stay in the loop?

  • We’re hosting a series of design charrettes for/with members of our community and stakeholders — we want you to participate in building a brighter, better, bolder CSI. Stay tuned for more info.
  • Talk with other members and let CSI Staff know about your needs and wants 
  • Send questions, suggestions, concerns, and comments to questions@socialinnovation.ca
Keep Reading
A group of people stand and sit around a piano, which has illegible writing on the front of it.
We exist in a world with overlapping crises that we wake up and face everyday. And so the next generation of climate action must tell a different story, and reflect a different reality. A reality where climate investments meaningfully improve the lives of residents, where every community in the country feels connected to the work, where we acknowledge the stakes and get down to the hard work of building a world that breaks down the individualistic silos and shows how much better life could be.
People stand or sit together in conversation on the ground floor of CSI Annex during Innovator Drinks.
Welcome to Connections at CSI, a monthly recap of CSI hosted events and rituals! These community gatherings are just a few of the many events and workshops organized by the entire CSI community.
June Callwood sits in an archyway at Casey House.
June Callwood’s life was full of social activism and fighting for what she believed in to make Toronto a better place for all. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting Callwood’s life and many achievements.
Become A Member