makeover for Casa Loma raises questions |
(Posted Date: Friday,
December 9, 2005)
Charity's operating expenses
should be audited, says critic
By Kris Scheuer
The Kiwanis Club has operated Casa
Loma on behalf of the city since 1937, but some residents and city
officials are now expressing doubt over the charity’s ability to
manage the well-known landmark.
The castle is one of the
city’s top tourist attractions, pulling in $5.6 million last year.
The expenses of running and maintaining the castle were $4.33
million. However, those expenses weren’t outlined in a recent city
That’s part of the problem, said Trelawny Howell,
the great-grandniece of Sir Henry Pellatt, the man who originally
built and owned the castle.
"It (Kiwanis) should be
audited," she said.
Last year, Casa Loma had a net revenue
of $1.26 million, of which the city received 77 percent and the
remaining 23 percent went to Kiwanis.
Because the castle has
fallen into disrepair over the years, the city recently approved
spending $20 million on its restoration, which is now half
"Why is the city investing $20 million in
renovating the exterior with taxpayers’ money," Howell said, adding
the castle’s upkeep should be the responsibility of Kiwanis.
She also questions why the licensing agreement with Kiwanis
has been renewed since 1937 without any tendering process that would
have allowed other companies to bid on the contract.
Kiwanis’s latest contract is set to expire on Sept. 30,
Mayor David Miller, chair of the policy and finance
committee, wanted to extend Kiwanis’s lease on a month-by-month
basis once it expires. However, city council voted to extend the
lease for another 27 months, until the end of 2008.
the decision to extend the lease is public, the discussion and
report by which that decision was reached is confidential.
"This city continues to have a closed-door structure on this
lease," said Howell.
Meanwhile, a city-appointed advisory
committee has been set up to suggest ways the castle can be enhanced
and also to determine whether Kiwanis should continue to manage the
The Casa Loma Advisory Committee (CLAC) was formed
in June, 2004, but because it will not report to city council until
next spring, it was Ron Kanter, the chair of CLAC, who suggested the
lease be extended, rather than look for a new manager at this time.
A meeting was held Nov. 30 to get the public’s views on how
to proceed. About 75 people showed up including city staff, members
of Kiwanis and CLAC.
"This was stakeholders and Kiwanis
members (in attendance). It wasn’t a panel where people go up and
ask questions and the meeting wasn’t publicized," said Howell.
The format for the meetings was a series of presentations by
Kiwanis, CLAC, and the heritage architect in charge of the
$20-million restoration project.
Kanter said some of the
suggestions in previous meetings included that the castle should
attract Torontonians, not just tourists; there should be a greater
effort to reflect the Edwardian heritage and style of the castle;
and that the castle should become part of a heritage precinct that
includes Spadina House, the Baldwin steps and the City of Toronto
Richard Wozenilek, chair of the Kiwanis Club of
Casa Loma, outlined his vision for the castle, which included all of
the initiatives mentioned by CLAC.
Wozenilek said the castle
attract roughly 350,000 visitors a year and hosts 200 annual events.
Kiwanis spends $1 million annually on the castle’s maintenance and
hands over $1 million in revenue to the city.
CLAC’s report on Casa Loma would go to council around May.
"Our recommendations will look at the vision and goals of
the castle and ways those goals can be implemented," he said. "Our
report may allude to governance (how it’s operated)," said Kanter.
Rita Davies, the executive director of culture for the city,
expressed her desire to see the castle resume its majestic place
among the city’s other famous landmarks.
"Kiwanis has done a
great job over the years, but what we’ve heard is that (the castle)
has lost its connection to the community. People haven’t gone in
years. We’ve heard this from a lot of people over time," she said,
adding this has been a wake-up call to try and find a way to connect
people back to Toronto’s castle.
She said the castle was in
such a state of disrepair four years ago that if the city hadn’t
approved the $20 million for restoration, sections of the castle
would have been deemed unsafe and possibly taken down.
councillor Joe Mihevc, who sits on CLAC, said there’s no time like
the present to plan for the future.
"We are using the
occasion of Kiwanis’s lease expiring to look at how to take this
prized public asset into the future."