April 24, 2014

Locals worried about historic castle’s fate

City to put out call for third-party operator at Casa Loma

Trelawny Howell does not want to see past mistakes repeated

Trelawny Howell does not want to see past mistakes repeated

The City of Toronto’s executive committee voted recently to issue a request for proposals to find a new operator for Casa Loma. A sale may be off the table for now, but locals are concerned about leaving the future of the city’s historic castle up to a third party.

The move was recommended by the Casa Loma Corporation (CLC), temporarily tasked in June 2011 with overseeing day-to-day operations at the tourist attraction after the city terminated its lease with the Kiwanis Club. Michael Williams, chair of the CLC, found in his report that retaining Casa Loma’s current use was preferred to any of the other options it analyzed.

Coun. Joe Mihevc is relieved that the option of selling Casa Loma was shelved, but he doesn’t think the city has had a proper public discussion on the fate of the historic castle.

“That’s a tragedy because we can do something really great there,” he said. “And what are we doing? We’re looking to wash our hands of it as a city and let some private proprietor take it over.”

Mihevc would like to see a new board of directors selected, made up of members with expertise in business, heritage and tourism as well as members of the community.
Trelawny Howell, great-grandniece of Sir Henry Pellatt — and a key player in the anti-Kiwanis Club movement — supports this approach, and is advocating for a more open request-for-proposal process with fewer restrictions.

“It [Casa Loma] is totally underutilized, and it’s embarrassing that Toronto has mismanaged this for so long,” Howell said. “It’s the only real castle we have in Canada, and it’s an insult how it’s been looked after.”

Pending approval from Toronto City Council this month, the call will be put out for suitors that can come up with a viable plan for Casa Loma. The third party operator will be required to fund maintenance and repairs, while preserving public access to the site and respecting the cultural and heritage significance of the buildings and grounds.