Casa Loma's old lease on life
A public meeting to debate the future of Casa Loma, the deteriorating tourist attraction on Spadina hill, brought more than 100 people to St. Lawrence Hall Wednesday, November 30.
But the expected fireworks over a deal struck weeks earlier between the city and the Kiwanis Club, which has operated the building for 70 years, never quite materialized, even though Trelawny Howell, the great grand-niece of Casa Loma builder Sir Henry Pellatt was there to stir the pot.
Most of the night was instead spent discussing how Edwardian-era buildings around the castle need to be combined into a heritage district to encourage more tourism.
There was also debate about the TTC sprucing up the nearby Dupont subway station by adding art or simply changing the station's name.
But there is mounting concern in the mayor's office about the arrangement the city's cultural committee has struck with Kiwanis, which sees the club pocket most of the proceeds from Casa Loma's use and admission fees.
During a September policy and finance committee meeting, the mayor recommended the lease be extended on a month-to-month basis. In the end, council decided to extend the lease agreement until 2008, shorter than the usual five-year term.
David Miller's spokesperson, Brendan Agnew-Iler, says the mayor is not against Kiwanis running the facility but did agree to the extension only "to maintain Casa Loma the way it is until we decide on the future of the building."
Kiwanis board chair Richard Wozenilek says Kiwanis is prepared to share governance of the castle with the city, but says its agreement should be renewed for up to 30 years.
Councillor Joe Mihevc, who attended last week's forum, is sounding like that may not be an option. He says the city is looking into several alternatives, including turning management over to the city entirely. "We're really thinking about the next generation for Casa Loma," he says.
Grits' crazy lane change
Motorists tired of gridlock on the DVP won't get any relief from Ontario government plans to test car-pooling lanes on the 400 series of highways.
The problem for 905 commuters heading to work downtown is that the 404 ends where the Don Valley Parkway meets Highway 401. So what's the point of carpooling if you're going to end up in a traffic jam anyway?
"The city hasn't been in discussion with us so far," says Bob Nichols, spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation. "It's their freeway, so plans for it are up to them."
Responds Ward 25 (Don Valley West) Councillor Cliff Jenkins, "The city doesn't really want to widen the Don Valley Parkway," which is what the plan announced by Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar will ultimately require. "Can you do a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane with the existing three lanes? I suspect that adding an extra lane won't be acceptable [to the city]."
Not to mention that an extra lane would defeat the purpose of reducing car emissions. Says Shelley Petrie, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, "If the government were serious about reducing smog, it would be changing current lanes on the highway to HOV lanes."
Indeed. And if the government is serious about carpooling, why is the Ontario Highway Transport Board doing the bidding of bus companies and preventing independent carpooling companies from operating in this province?