Re: EX35.2 Casa Loma Request for Proposals-Operator for Main House and Grounds
Speaker: Trelawny Howell,
Great-grandniece of Sir Henry Pellatt, builder of Casa Loma
Since 2005, I have being speaking at Executive Council meetings and sending letters to City Councilors and staff, advocating for an open governance process and revitalization of Casa Loma.
In April 2005 I received my first media support after an article I wrote on Casa Loma’s fate was published in a magazine. It was about the City’s unaccountable history of leasing Casa Loma solely to the Kiwanis Club since 1936. I was a member of the Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma for six years and resigned in 2005 before writing my article. I knew firsthand that the city privately subsidized Kiwanis Club Charity operations for 75 years, renewing their leases without ever having an open tender process for competitive bids.
I took my article to the City’s Press Gallery. The Globe and Mail’s City bureau chief, not to mention the National Post, Toronto Star, and CBC radio, then contacted me for interviews.
Since then I have continued to advocate for the open completive leasing of Casa Loma. For the past eight years I have seen City Council and the Executive Committee disregard reports made by City staff and their appointed panels. CLAC’s 2007 report determined that Kiwanis Club management was ‘unsustainable’. But their recommendation for an open tender process for the future management of Casa Loma was never adopted.
At the City’s Executive Committee meeting in July 2007, I spoke about potential options for the future use of Casa Loma. I suggested Liberty Grand and The Carlu should be the top contenders to operate Casa Loma, given their successful history of restoring and running venues in the City’s other grand heritage buildings.
In December 2007 Liberty Group was even hired by Kiwanis Club to be Casa Loma’s new caterers, to help secure their proposal to the City for another 20 year lease.
Like the city’s own staff recommendations, for several years I urged City Council to conduct an audit of Kiwanis management. Instead, they awarded Kiwanis Club another 20-year lease in July 2008.
Shortly after the new 20-year lease agreement was signed, Liberty Group’s catering deal with the Kiwanis Club disappeared.
In July 2010, after a city-appointed auditor revealed mismanagement, arrears in rents, non-compliance with several other lease obligations, and the Kiwanis Chair’s ‘conflict of interest’ for receiving legal fees, City Council finally terminated the Kiwanis lease.
Yet the City’s headaches caused by the Kiwanis Club were not over.
The City’s lease to Kiwanis had an out-clause; the City could terminate its 2008 lease after 2 years without penalty because of the non-compliance issues found with Kiwanis in the audit.
However, the City Manager negotiated a termination deal to pay Kiwanis Club over $5 million dollars in ‘undisclosed’ fees, including $3 million the city waived for arrears in rent and obligations for improvements that Kiwanis did not make to Casa Loma.
The City paid Kiwanis $1.45 million to purchase Casa Loma’s furnishings and artifacts, many of which had been donated to Casa Loma in the first place. The City also paid $300,000 in management fees to subsidize the Kiwanis Cub charity. Due to their charity status they were also exempted from paying property taxes in their lease agreement.
Furthermore, the City made a new agreement with Kiwanis Club to let them remain at Casa Loma ‘rent-free’ during the City’s 3-year process to find a new operator.
City Council voted for this deal as well, without any debate and without transparent accountability for the $ 5 million in payouts to Kiwanis Club.
In 2011, the City finally took over the interim-management of Casa Loma.
Three years later the process I had been advocating for the past nine years finally took place.
A new operator has now been selected through the RFP – Request for Proposals. An open-tender bidding process. This chosen operator, Liberty Group, will be considered by the Executive Committee, then considered by City Council on November 13th, subject to the actions of Executive Committee. If selected, it will take over the lease operations of Casa Loma in January 2014, under a 20-year lease agreement.
2014 will commemorate the new era for ‘Liberty’ at Casa Loma, a century after it was built for Sir Henry Pellatt.
In recognition of my contributions over the past nine years advocating for an open process in Casa Loma’s governance, I would like to a role in working with The City and Liberty Group to revitalize Casa Loma.
I would also like to see the proposed City Museum in the ‘Hunting Lodge’ include a section devoted to the history of Sir Henry Pellatt’s accomplishments. To include all available press documentation from the past to the present in order to tell his full story and showcase the evolution of Casa Loma over that last century since it was built in 1914.
Thank you for your consideration of my work’s value and the historical representation I can contribute to the revitalization of Casa Loma.
Great grandniece of Sir Henry Pellatt,
Builder of Casa Loma era 1914
References to the City reports, Executive Committee, Council meetings, letters and the Press archives since 2005 can be found at: