Josh Matlow and Joe Mihevc, Special to National Post | Sep 20, 2012 6:35 PM ET | Last Updated: Sep 20, 2012 11:16 PM ET
Future options for Casa Loma will be on the Oct. 2 council agenda regarding the future of Casa Loma, presenting a historic opportunity for a bold repurposing of one of our city’s most iconic landmarks.
As the local councillors for Casa Loma, we support the Executive Committee’s recommendations to explore more creative, and revenue-generating, options for its operation.
However, we believe that a Toronto Museum should be included for consideration as part of the Request for Proposal as it would complement and benefit the existing and potential uses of Casa Loma through increased visitation. Moreover, the addition of a museum has the potential to attract high-end donors to refurbish the adjacent properties and provide a portion of the $18-million backlog in necessary capital repairs.
With Dupont station steps away and its close proximity to the downtown core, Casa Loma provides an ideal location for a Toronto Museum. The landmark is also steps away from the Spadina House Museum and the City Archives, creating a potential heritage corridor for students, researchers, tourists and other visitors.
A Toronto Museum within Casa Loma and its adjacent properties would fill a deep void in our cultural landscape, improve the feasibility of the existing uses while expanding opportunities for new investment and donations in a unique structure and location.
Now is the right time to move forward with a new cultural institution that will protect and share our city’s heritage and Casa Loma provides the ideal space for it
Great cities celebrate, protect and share their heritage in places of living history where residents can learn about their home and visitors can be introduced to a new place. For decades, successive councils and prominent residents have done significant work toward the creation of a museum for our city. I know many of you have done significant work toward this cause.
The most recent site designated for this purpose is unfortunately no longer available. Staff has confirmed that Old City Hall will be renewing and expanding its lease with the province beyond 2016 for courts and ancillary purposes.
Casa Loma and its adjacent properties contain adequate space for a Toronto Museum that could house a permanent collection and rotating exhibits. For example, if the first floor and second floor of Casa Loma were to be reserved for the Pellatt family exhibit and high-end event space, the needed room for a city collection could be found in the basement and 3rd floors of the main building in addition to the Hunting Lodge and Stables connected to Casa Loma by a tunnel that runs under the street. The total area of these under-utilized spaces is 57,400 sq. ft.
The staff report also identified 7,500 sq. ft. of office and storage space that could be partially located elsewhere. As well, the land surrounding the stables and the Hunting Lodge provide an opportunity for additions and complementary structures to both buildings. Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal have city museums. In fact, altogether, the potential exhibit space available at Casa Loma is larger than the successful Montreal City museum (Centre d’histoire de Montreal) which is only 8,018 sq. ft. However, cities such as Chicago and New York have much larger museums — we’ve learned that there’s no one size that fits all.
Now is the right time to move forward with a new cultural institution that will protect and share our city’s heritage and Casa Loma provides the ideal space for it. We have an opportunity to house our historical home; breathing new life into both.
We hope that you will support our request on Oct. 2 to explore the potential of this exciting opportunity — for our city’s history and Casa Loma’s future.