Toronto Loft Conversions

Toronto Loft Conversions

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Modern Toronto Lofts

Modern Toronto Lofts

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Unique Toronto Homes

Unique Toronto Homes

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Condos in Toronto

Condos in Toronto

I started off selling mainly condos, helping first time buyers get a foothold in the Toronto real estate market. Now working with investors and helping empty nesters find that perfect luxury suite.

Toronto Real Estate

Toronto Real Estate

For all of your Toronto real estate needs, contact Laurin. I am dedicated to helping you find that perfect and unique new home to call your own.


Masonic Temple

Heritage property a tough site for condos, experts say

Rachel Mendleson – Toronto Star

It’s played host to Frank Sinatra, David Bowie and Led Zeppelin. But its original purpose was as a home to the Masons, a semisecret fraternal organization that performed elaborate rites and rituals in the meeting rooms upstairs.

More rooted in the past than the present, the Masonic Temple is steeped in a unique dual history still evident within the brick and limestone building that has presided over the intersection of Yonge and Davenport since 1918.

The 1,200-seat ballroom remains a grand-yet-intimate space, with original hardwood floors, decorated ceiling beams and gallery. The intricate emblems and millwork of the Masons can be found on the upper levels, in the hallways and on the floors. In the cavernous Scottish Rite room, gothic thrones and dark wood panelling accompany a weighty snooker table, left behind in 2003 by the Rolling Stones.

But the future of this place is once again uncertain.

Last week, dozens of office chairs belonging to MTV Canada, the latest group to occupy the heritage building, were stacked neatly behind the security desk. The offices upstairs sat in a sort of post-apocalyptic state, with bits of paper strewn about the floor beneath emptied-out desks.

It’s been many years since the Temple operated as a live music venue. But Devon (Dave) Pinnock, who has been building manager since the early ’80s, hopes it will be retained.

“It’s such a beautiful space to have shows. I’d love to see the building used for something constructive,” he said, “definitely not a condo.”

The condo question has swirled around the Temple since early November, when Media announced it was closing its production studios there, and moving MTV Canada to 299 Queen St. W. Situated on a prime corner lot, the building is protected under the Ontario Heritage Act. But some have speculated that it could be hollowed out and converted into a residential development nonetheless.

Yet at a time when cranes crowd the Toronto skyline, preservationists may be headed for a rare win. A stringent height limit and tighter-than-average heritage protections are just some of the factors that suggest that even if the site is re-purposed, the odds are stacked against a condo tower.

“Any type of development potential would be very limited,” area Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam told the Star.

Bell Media spokesman Scott Henderson declined to speculate on potential future uses, noting that the company is “considering all possibilities.” (The property is not currently listed for sale.) But as Henderson points out, “any potential buyer would need to respect the applicable municipal or zoning bylaws.”

“Ultimately, we anticipate that the Masonic Temple will retain the elements that led to its (heritage) designation in the first place,” he said.

If the imposing structure at 888 Yonge St. and its storied auditorium are spared the wrecking ball, it will likely be because the battle to tear it down has already been lost.

Inspired by the Renaissance Revival, the six-storey building included a concert space so the Masons could pay the bills. The auditorium underwent numerous reinventions over the years, from rock institution to dance hall.

But in the late ’90s, several years after the Masons off-loaded the property, owner Charles Moon proposed a 19-storey condo tower, with 124 units and four levels of above-ground parking. The auditorium and Masonic meeting rooms would be gutted.

Toronto’s historical board and city council fought back, and the building, listed as a heritage property since the early ’70s, received additional protection under the Ontario Heritage Act. Whereas in most cases, designation concerns only building exteriors, the bylaw passed in 1997 lists a number of “important interior features,” including a patterned tile floor and other Masonic carvings and symbols in the auditorium and upper levels.

CTV, now owned by Bell, bought the property in 1998, and renovated the concert hall, which has often been used for special events, including performances by Kanye West, Adele and the annual Polaris Music Prize gala. The network also filmed several TV shows, including Open Mike with Mike Bullard, at The Temple, which has been home to MTV Canada since 2006.

Although a future owner can apply to repurpose the site in any way they desire, Mary MacDonald, acting manager of Toronto’s Heritage Preservation Services, said a dramatic departure would be a tough sell.

“We certainly will be looking to make sure that the whole building is maintained,” she said.

One way to work around the extensive heritage designation (other than demolition by neglect) would be to use the Temple as the entrance to a condo tower on an adjoining property. But at the moment, those sites are occupied by two condos, an office building and a Toronto Community Housing Corp. building. That makes it “highly unlikely” that a developer could proceed in this manner, according to midtown planning manager David Oikawa.

All of that, combined with the 30-metre height limit, mean the Temple would be “one of the tougher sites in the city to re-purpose,” said real estate consultant Barry Lyon.

But who – or what – will take up residence next in the Temple is anyone’s guess.

Wong-Tam, who used to frequent dance shows in the auditorium in the early ’90s and once produced a hip-hop show there, says she would be particularly enthusiastic about proposals to retain it as a “community-oriented, cultural space.”

“We have plenty of condos,” she said. “But with respect to arts and culture spaces in Toronto, we don’t have enough. And we certainly don’t have enough of these really intimate spaces and music halls.”

The venue also made an impression on Jeff Cohen, who owns the Horseshoe Tavern and Lee’s Palace. As a student at Carleton University in the early ’80s, Cohen hitched a ride to Toronto on the back of a friend’s motorcycle to see English Beat perform three consecutive shows at the Temple, an experience that “stayed with me for the rest of my life,” he said.

When he heard that MTV Canada was leaving the building, Cohen reached out to Bell Media to find out more about the company’s plans.

“If there was an opportunity to possibly rent the place out, or if they’d like to sell it to somebody who would preserve it as a live music venue rather than just real estate, I would be completely interested,” said Cohen, who has yet to receive a response from Bell.

In the meantime, the movers still have a ways to go at the Temple, where last week the mountain of video cameras, lights and cables that have accumulated over the years had yet to be cleared out.

But in the auditorium, there’s a sense that it wouldn’t take much to put on a show, even after MTV is gone. Just some stage lights, music – and a crowd.

Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto Realtor with Century 21 Regal Realty. He did not
write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who are
interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.