Wednesday, 13 June 2012 10:26

Casa Loma ‘heritage’ project tests market

Written by  Caitlin Nobes
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Its success, or failure, may be the bellwether of Toronto’s cooling high-end market. But the investor behind the controversial redevelopment of the Maclean house – a heritage site near Casa Loma – says the project is better positioned to win buyers than other properties languishing in  tony neighbourhoods.

“I would argue that this specific development might be a little insulated from market swings,” Renaissance Fine Homes partner Matthew Garnet says. “You don’t see new construction in the Casa Loma area and the heritage approved aspect is going to be our point of difference.”

There are a few serious buyers interested in the six homes now being constructed on the Austin Terrace site, once home to Maclean’s Magazine founder John Maclean, but Garnet says he is aware properties in the $2-million-plus range will take time to sell.

Still, sell they will, he tells CREW – that despite continuing signs sales at the high-end for T.O.'s residential market are slowing down, with deals taking longer to close.

Homes priced closer to the regional average price continue to attract the kind of fierce bidding wars that Toronto is increasingly known for,says Realtors.

The Maclean house redevelopment in Casa Loma has been just as tumultuous. The previous developer planned to demolish the house entirely, but was forced to stop work when residents got an injunction against the project and succeeded in having the house, designed famed architect John Lyle in the early 1900s expressly for Maclean, declared a heritage property.

 The Ontario Municipal Board was to make a decision on the case, but when Renaissance Fine Homes bought the property for a refuted $3.6 million, and had the city and neighbours sign off on their plans, the board considered it a settlement.

“The previous developer wasn’t willing to reduce the density or work with the existing façade or walls,” Garnet says. “We’re not a mass-production builder and we found it interesting and welcomed challenge to work with the existing facade while incorporating three new residences within this historic facade.”

Garnet can understand why the original developer wanted to put as many units as possible on the site, but says historic sites take a careful hand – and a big budget.

“The typical developer would be well advised to take their budget and add a third,” he says. “A heritage project just takes that much more time and that much more care.”

The bulk of the house has been demolished, but the façade has been retained and will be fully refurbished to its 1910 glory including using lead-based copper and replacing decorative elements removed by the previous developer. Estimates for the build range from $8 million to $11 million.

A total of six units will be built, three behind the façade and three replacing a wing added to the house in the 1930s, ranging from 2,700 to 3,600 square feet. A number of older features such as trim, doorknobs and railings were retrieved before the house was demolished and will be included in the new builds.


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Last modified on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 18:15

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