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Casa Loma under new (old) management: city regains control

June 30th, 2011 · No Comments

By Katie O’Connor

After years of power struggles, the City of Toronto took control of Casa Loma (1 Austin Terrace) from the Kiwanis Club, which has managed the historic castle for almost 75 years.

The city owns Casa Loma, but had contracted out management to the charity since 1937.

In exchange for ending the management contract early, the city will pay the club $1.45 million for artifacts and branding such as the Casa Loma name, and $300,000 in unpaid management fees, said economic development and tourism general manager Mike Williams.

Under the deal, Kiwanis will be able to hold weekly meetings free of charge and up to five charitable events a year.

The city plans to run the facility for 12 to 18 months while it holds community consultations regarding the property.

The deal is just another twist in a tale that has, at times, seen the city and the Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma pitted against each other.

The takeover comes only three years after Kiwanis signed a 20-year contract with the city.

The relationship took a turn for the worse in the summer of 2010 when the city blamed Kiwanis for failing to complete renovations.

Former Mayor David Miller also unsuccessfully demanded the removal of Richard Wozenilek, chair of the Casa Loma board, because of conflict of interest issues.

Asked whether he thought the events of 2010 had anything to do with the contract being ended early, Wozenilek was adamant.

“Without question, it was nothing to do with these current negotiations,” he said. “The economic reality of the situation in our present day has dictated that this is the best eventuality for the castle.”

Wozenilek said he was sad to see the city take over management of the castle, but called it a “win-win” for both the city and the Kiwanis Club.

Over the past few years the castle has struggled to pull in visitors, and was hit especially hard by the recession.

“It’s not a place that Torontonians use to play, to experience culture, to eat, and so on. It could be so much more,” said Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Pauls), a non-voting member of the Casa Loma board.

Mihevc said the castle needs a management board that understands heritage, tourism, special events, and property management.

“We have to acknowledge from the 1930s to the present era, Kiwanis did a great job keeping the place together. However, they are a social service club, focused on music,” said Mihevc. “We need to make this unpolished jewel shine better in our city.”

Trelawny Howell, the great-grandniece of Sir Henry Pellatt, the Toronto businessman who built the mansion, called the deal one-sided and said that the city was giving massive payouts for mismanagement.

The city should not be paying for the artifacts and trademarks, because they never actually belonged to Kiwanis, Howell said.

Mihevc called the payouts a “sweetener” used to make the deal happen.“Kiwanis saw the writing on the wall, but also needed to have their historical contribution to the castle valued, and this is how it expressed itself in this.”

The deal was rubber-stamped by the city’s executive committee on June 14.

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