June-14-2011 Globe and Mail – Recently renovated piece of Toronto history a good buy

The Globe and Mail

For Sale: Casa Loma

Recently renovated piece of Toronto history a good buy


From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Jun. 14, 2011 9:07PM EDT

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford wants to put Casa Loma, the city-owned mansion, on the block. “Casa Loma is something that I think eventually we have to sell. That’s the bottom line,” he said Tuesday.

It is difficult to put a price on this historical fixer upper, but could the city find a willing buyer for the prestige property? Here’s a look at what perspective buyers would get.

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1 Austin Terrace

The back story

It’s been a century since local tycoon Sir Henry Pellatt broke ground on this sprawling five-acre estate. Designed by E.J. Lennox – the architect of Old City Hall – the 170,000-square-foot gothic revival mansion took 300 men, three years and $3.5-million to complete. That’s roughly $90-million in today’s dollars. It had 98 rooms when completed and was the largest private home in Canada. Sir Henry’s grand ambitions soon fell on hard times and the city seized the castle for unpaid taxes. An attempt was made to operate it as an apartment hotel, but after sitting vacant for a dozen years, the Kiwanis Club offered to run it as a charitable venture. On Tuesday, city council voted to take back management of the property, instructing staff to craft a new long-term strategy.

The house today

The city has nearly finished a $33-million restoration of the exterior of the castle and its stables. But on the inside, this house on the hill would require a major redo, says agent Janet Lindsay, who specializes in luxury homes at Chestnut Park Real Estate. Ms. Lindsay doubts the castle would sell as a single-family home, but says it could fetch top dollar divided into condominium suites. “There is a lot of great wealth in Toronto and for one-of-a-kind properties people will pay for it, whether they are local or international,” she said. “It would be splendid for multifamily units.”

A penthouse at the new Four Seasons building recently sold for $28-million for 9,000 square feet, she says, an indication of the demand at the top end of the market.

The best features

This landmark property has soaring ceilings and plenty of character. Casa Loma features fountains, terraces and balconies, a secret tunnel and two hidden passageways. The main floor includes a conservatory, billiards room, great hall and library. But it’s the location, at the top of the escarpment with the Toronto skyline as a constant backdrop, that really gives it the “wow” factor, Ms. Lindsay says. “It has a whole view of the city.”

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