Toronto Star – Toronto, Ont.
Jun 16, 2010
Even Casa Loma’s former lobbyist says it may be time to turn the city-owned landmark over to a new operator.
Paul Sutherland, a former councilor, was hired by the castle’s long-time manager, the Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma, to achieve a new deal with the city, which wants interior renovations, new programming and new visitor amenities added.
“You can only give people so much time and if it doesn’t feel like it’s going in the right direction, then perhaps there should be substantial change there,” Sutherland said.
A new management agreement negotiated between the city and Kiwanis took effect two years ago. But Mayor David Miller has complained that progress is slow.
The city itself spent $16 million on exterior renovations between 2003 and 2009, but interior upgrades the club was supposed to have done by now – including a new visitors centre, third-floor exhibits, a restaurant and floor and woodwork upgrades – haven’t happened.
At Monday’s executive committee meeting, Miller raised what he called a serious conflict of interest allegation involving Casa Loma’s chair, lawyer Richard Wozenilek. He publicly called for Wozenilek’s removal over $118,000 billed for legal work on Casa Loma’s behalf performed by the lawyer’s own firm.
Wozenilek was travelling and unavailable for comment. Calls to his cell phone were not returned.
The city says the fees were for representing Kiwanis in developing the management agreement and issuing a request for proposals to engage a new food-services company.
A city staff report says the club was to spend $1.6 million on upgrades by the end of June. But because funds have gone to cover operating shortfalls, only $335,000 will be available by the end of 2011.
“If it’s been two years and we haven’t seen what we want, then I think the mayor and council would be right in saying it’s time to just change things,” Sutherland said. “This isn’t an aspersion on the Kiwanis: It just might be that it needs more capital to make it what it should be, because it should be an amazing site.”
Credit: Paul Moloney Toronto Star