Casa Loma will soon be the site of a city museum, if local councillors Joe Mihevc and Josh Matlow get their way.
Mihevc, Ward 21, and Matlow, Ward 22, have been pitching the idea of converting Sir Henry Pellatt’s former hunting lodge, the centrepiece of Casa Loma’s north campus, into a museum since 2012. They have taken leading roles, by arranging a public meeting in late February and actively seeking new operators for the property.
The City of Toronto is about to begin its search for an operator of the 2.5-acre north campus, which also includes Pellatt’s garage, potting shed and stables. A request for proposals, inviting applicants to submit proposals for how they would run the property, is going out in early April. City staff said it is hoped a new operator will be in place by the end of the year.
“Casa Loma may be the most iconic historical property in Toronto, so I think it’s the perfect place to begin creating a Toronto museum,” Matlow said. “Great cities around the world have civic museums — it’s a great way for school children, visitors and residents alike to learn about Toronto’s story and really appreciate the city that we love.”
Nick Di Donato, president of Liberty Entertainment, which took over main Casa Loma operations in 2014 and will be submitting an application for the north campus as well, nonetheless has reservations about the viability of converting Pellatt’s hunting lodge into a city museum.
“The space in the area does not have the magnitude to execute a proper museum,” he said. “So unless you’re going to build a whole new structure with additional parking … then it’s going to be a challenge.”
Liberty Entertainment incorporates the stables and garage into its current tours of Casa Loma.
The RFP will mention the local councillors’ 2012 motion supporting the land’s potential use as a city museum, but aspiring operators are not required to submit plans for one, says Eva Pyatt, special projects director of the city’s Economic Development & Culture division.
Pyatt, who served as interim CEO of Casa Loma while it was being run by the city, admits the RFP presents an unusual opportunity: the north campus is “not conspicuous,” and it is partly chopped up by the castle itself.
Proposals will be judged on accessibility, how well they complement the surrounding environment and the neighbourhood, and how well they accommodate Liberty Entertainment’s current operations at Casa Loma, she said.
The Feb. 26 public meeting saw only 18 attendees, among them city staff and consultants. Four local residents spoke, each expressing concern about the potential impact a city museum at Casa Loma would have on neighbourhood traffic.
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