Sept-23-2012 National Post – Reader suggestions for Casa Loma include college, casinos and Harry Potter theme park

National Post Staff | Sep 23, 2012 2:26 PM ETTyler Anderson/National Post files
Tyler Anderson/National Post files

“A Toronto Museum within Casa Loma and its adjacent properties would fill a deep void in our cultural landscape.”City councilors Josh Matlow and Joe Mihevc believe Casa Loma should be a city museum. As they explained in an open letter this week, it would be the best place to preserve Toronto’s history and make use of a building that is struggling to find a purpose. But not everyone believes a museum is the best option. The National Post asked readers last week what they thought should become of the grand structure. Their responses range from wedding venue to Harry Potter theme park, and everything in between. Here are what some readers had to say:

Colin Lacey: I think the City should consider a partnership with George Brown College. There is already a George Brown Casa Loma campus, which could expand their facilities to include the site. It would not only provide year-round animation to Casa Loma, but there could be an agreement reached with George Brown to maintain the historic character of Casa Loma while modifying the interior to accommodate classrooms and student facilities. The site’s reputation for sightseeing, event rentals and the gardens could still exist as part of a college campus.

Daniel Home Rozenberg: Casa Loma is IDEAL to host the CASINO in Toronto!!!

Dave Griffiths:
 Turn it into a hotel. Place a decent restaurant or two on the main floors, a wine bar in the cellars and yes, maybe even a Starbucks in the foyer. It would grant the greatest access to the public, create employment and preserve a tourist attraction.

Steven Lu, Hong Kong: Let’s make it into Canada’s Harry Potter Theme Park – we can make good use of that huge room on the first floor —perfect as Hogwart’s dining hall. The narrow and some hidden staircases can take the kids to their dorm rooms. The huge unfinished pool in the basement can be used for some of the student’s physical education under water, and there’s plenty of room outside for Quidditch!

Nei Milou: Turn it into a wedding venue with banquet service and overnight stay.

Carol Di Lorenzo, Glenview, IL
: My husband and I enjoyed touring the Casa Loma mansion today during our visit from Chicago. As I walked through this treasure I thought about how it could be used, enjoyed, preserved and at the same time, make money. I suggest making it into a special event and cultural arts venue supported by government, tax base, grants and donations. You could continue tours but also rent the venue for weddings, corporate events, cultural events and architectural tours. Contract with one exclusive caterer for events and their staff can also market the location. The conservatory would be such a lovely place for a wedding, dancing, parties.

Jason Merkowsky: Lease it to a private school during the year (make a load of money on leasing) and then keep it for touring during the summer months.

Brendan Hancharek: Casa Loma should become the new premier’s residence. That way, we can help our Premier to maintain a regal image on the world stage, regardless of self-imposed shame due to election-promise deceit, and naive policy directions… The City of Toronto can collect rent from the deal, and use the money to improve TTC wait-times.

Michael Richard Jackson Bonner
: In my view Casa Loma should become the lieutenant-governor’s palace. We might thereby make up for the shameful demolition of the mansion in Chorley Park, which was once the finest vice-regal palace in Canada.

Aaron Lynett / National Post filesCasa Loma, Toronto’s iconic castle “should be a place of grandeur,” said Councillor Josh Matlow.

Neville Austin: I think Casa Loma should become the Toronto Castle of the Arts for music, theatre, cinema and literature. The smaller rooms can be rented out for rehearsal studios and private meetings. The larger rooms can be used for chamber music concerts (e.g. piano recitals, string quartets, etc.), smaller-scale plays, indie/art-house films and book launches/readings. Various spaces in the castle can continue to be rented out for special occasions, e.g. weddings, parties and bar mitzvahs. My idea is to use as many rooms and spaces as possible for as many diverse cultural activities as possible so as to recover as much money as possible to make the castle a financially viable proposition

Joanne Keizer: It should be sold to be a hotel and spa. It is a great historic building and Toronto and should be protected but you want it to generate wealth and not cost taxpayers. Hopefully zoning issues do not mess it up. The location is still good as it is a short walk to downtown. I would make it a very pricey hotel and spa with limo service to Yorkville.

T. Needer, Thornhill: 
What to do with this architectural treasure comes straight from one of Donald Trump’s books, where he had a similar problem with another old treasure, Maralago. Faced with a vision against a mountain of restrictions, he boldly turned it into an exclusive club for the super wealthy, as well as a place to hold special events. Yes, a few tourists would be deprived of an attraction, but that would be offset by homeowners who deserve their piece and quiet. A win-win solution!

Pauline: How about a venue for high tea similar to the Empress Hotel’s in Victoria? It would be really elegant in that setting.

David Adams: Rent out at least part of the castle to the rich and retain part of it for revenue paying things like high end businesses that could use a castle as their headquarters. This is how the English nobility is maintaining their castles, only they live in the part of the castle they retain.

Sharron Hyman: It would be a terrible loss to the city to see this beautiful castle fall into such disrepair. My suggestion is to turn it into a lovely boutique hotel or bed and breakfast. It would be a wonderful destination attraction. If I had the money I would do it myself.

Edie Kaldis, Whitby: I think Casa Loma should be used as a banquet hall for weddings, Christmas parties, etc. The high ceilings and large rooms make it perfect for such events and the decorating ideas are endless. Plus, the grounds are perfect for wedding pictures, etc. They could even renovate one of the rooms and make it into a chapel.

Mark Salsberg: I believe it should be a unique 5-star hotel. It is one of the most distinguished buildings in the city. Spain had a similar problem with a lot of its castles around the country. So they completely updated the ones they felt were the most attractive to tourists and made it into a modern and unique getaway experience. Casa Loma is in an excellent part of the city to be able to host tourists all over the world for an experience to stay in a castle with modern amenities. I believe a hotelier experienced in the renovation and reinvigoration of a historical site (possibly Fairmont) should assume responsibility. Either through a lease or partnership with the city…. The city has the Royal York as its established historic hotel. This can be an excellent opportunity to have another. Ottawa has Chateau Laurier, Quebec City has Chateau Frontenac. Why can’t Toronto have Chateau Loma???

JEH Porter: To survive in any recognizable form, it must be extracted from city involvement. Why? Just look at what those vandals have done with Guildwood Inn! In private hands it should have a kitchen second to none. Standard and specialty fare at high prices, guaranteed to please any palate. There are 15 bedrooms that could be rented out at $1,000 per 24 hours. The other rooms and galleries for exclusive invitation-only events. As for the public, there should be an hour-long documentary with a well-known Canadian actor who actually likes the place, available on Netflix and [other similar] services for viewing anytime. Think of it, the gardens could actually be used to grow herbs used in the daily cuisine… and the sheep graze on the lawn, for brief periods only so as not to have guests sleep disturbed by bleating. Ok omit the sheep. In short it takes money and associations to make money and preserve a city landmark the way it was meant to be.

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