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William Cawthra’s historic real estate deal

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Until bad, old Mr. COVID-19 began taking over the media some weeks ago, reports concerning real estate transactions were among the most commonly featured stories with wild increases in both housing and condominium prices stoking those stories.

So in keeping with the times it would be natural, from a historical perspective at least, which is after all the mandate of my column, for me to write about previous epidemics that have rattled our community.

Epidemics such as that posed by the influx of cholera in 1833 and again in 1834, the arrival of the so-called Spanish influenza at the end of the Great War and two events I remember, the polio epidemics that struck in 1953 (when I was in public school) and again in 1959 (when I was in high school).

But, I’m not going to further upset you with stories that are real downers. I’ll revert instead to offer the story I had already planned to do, one that would feature a look at the anniversary of an important real estate activity that took place in our city exactly 168 years ago on Thursday.

It was on March 19, 1852 that one of our city’s earliest settlers, William Cawthra, and a man who would go on to be described as the “John Jacob Astor of Upper Canada” (after 1867 Ontario) signed the required papers giving him the ownership of the plot of land at the northeast corner of today’s King and Bay Sts. that measured 52 feet along the north side of King and 146 feet along the east side of Bay.


William Cawthra (1801 — 1880), Toronto business and civic leader and philanthropist. (City of Toronto Archives)

The seller was Samuel Rogers, the price £1,300. This property actually started off as a Crown grant awarded to one Captain Daniel Cozens, who was born in Philadelphia and fought in the American Revolution, eventually moving north of the border and settling in York (Toronto).

Soon after the real estate deal was concluded, Cawthra, who by now was acknowledged as the most successful merchant in the city as well as one of the richest men in the country, arranged for prominent local architect and fellow Yorkshireman Joseph Sheard to design and build for him a new residence on the property he had just purchased from Captain Cozens.

To be known as Cawthra House upon completion, it was regarded as the finest residence in the province. William Cawthra died in 1880 and his abandoned house was subsequently used for a variety of purposes.

In 1911, an attempt was made to move the house to save it from demolition. Some suggested it could be the Toronto museum. In 1946 the Bank of Nova Scotia announced it would build a skyscraper on the northeast corner of King and Bay and the Cawthra House would be demolished.

Again, attempts were made to save the historic building but again to no avail. The new $17 million, 25-story Bank of Nova Scotia was officially opened On Sept. 25, 1951.


When the new Bank of Nova Scotia opened in 1951 at King and Bay Sts., it completed the intersection’s title as the city’s MINT corner — for the banks on the four corners; Montreal, Imperial, Nova Scotia and Toronto.(MF Collection)

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Readers who are familiar with Cawthra Rd. in Mississauga may be interested in learning that the name of their street has a direct connection with William Cawthra, the subject of this column.

Among his descendants was Henry Cawthra who died in 1904. One of Henry’s children was Grace who acquired Lot 10, which was part of the 200-acre Crown grant awarded to Joseph, the first of the Cawthras to settle in Upper Canada. He was a United Empire Loyalist, William’s father and as it would turn out Grace’s grandfather.

This grant ran north from Lake Ontario in what is now known as the Region of Peel. In 1926, Grace and her husband Harry McIntyre Elliot built a new house on the inherited property and moved into it from her former residence, Yeadon Hall on College St. west of University Ave.

Eventually, the road that led past their house became known as the Cawthra Rd. And there’s the Cawthra House-Cawthra Rd. connection.

Grace died in 1974 and what had become known as Cawthra-Elliot Estate was taken over by the City of Mississauga.

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BC real estate company accused of price gouging during pandemic | Urbanized – Daily Hive

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A real estate company based out of Surrey, BC, is facing accusations of price gouging after a lease agreement for the Surrey location of Bad Axe Throwing Inc was released to news outlets.

Business owner Mario Zelaya has 40 locations of Bad Axe across North America and the United Kingdom, with nine locations in Canada.

The Surrey location was undergoing a renewal of its lease agreement with the rental company, Richwood Enterprises LTD, a subsidiary of the Redstone Group real estate company.

Zelaya said he was surprised to find some unusual amendments to the new lease agreement.

The amendments included a lease extension for two years and six months, mandatory payment on property taxes (to which the company is allegedly applicable for relief or deferral), an interest rate of 6.0% (the current Bank of Canada prime interest rate is 2.45%), and the tying of personal assets to the lease.

The final nails in the coffin for Zelaya were two clauses mandating that the tenant would not talk to other tenants of the building regarding the agreement, and that no one involved with the lease would speak to press, members of the public, or anyone else about the contents of the agreement.

“When the landlord is telling me that other tenants have signed it and it’s not a big deal, that’s suspect,” said Zelaya in a phone interview with Daily Hive.

“The average tenant doesn’t understand the legalese and can’t afford to hire a lawyer to go through the agreement. We have the luxury of not having to sign the proposal. I can afford that. Most small businesses can’t.”

Zelaya stated that other landlords across the company’s 40 locations have been very gracious in their deferral of rent for the axe-throwing company. The Surrey location is the only location to have received a document like the one sent out by the Redstone Group.

“I think that the message I want to get out and include is that the province needs to step in. The greater problem is for those who don’t have the luxury to not sign the agreement,” said Zelaya.

“I’ve gotten in touch with the premier of BC about what I feel is essentially price gouging in a crisis. There needs to be protection for this […] This is something that needs investigating and needs to be stopped.”

Daily Hive has reached out to the Redstone Group for comment but did not hear back by time of publication.

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Despite one billion-dollar deal, commercial real estate sales drop sharply in Metro Vancouver in 2019 – Straight.com

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Last year was not the best of times for commercial real estate brokers in the Lower Mainland working north of the Fraser River.

That’s because the number of sales plummeted 32.8 percent from 2018, according to figures released today.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver noted that the 2019 commercial sales figure was also 41.5 percent behind the torrid pace set in 2017.

The drop in dollar value was even greater—the $6.86 billion in sales in 2019 was 56.7 percent below the $15.83 billion recorded in the previous year.

“Activity in the commercial market slowed in 2019 due in large part to reduced economic activity across our provincial economy last year,” REBGV president Ashley Smith said in a news release. “We experienced a pickup in home buyer activity in the residential real estate market to start this year, but we’ll have to wait and see how demand for commercial real estate will be impacted by the economic difficulties that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing.”

That’s not to say there weren’t any gigantic commissions, though.

The biggest-ticket sale came when Hudson Pacific Properties and Blackstone Partners bought the Bentall Centre in Vancouver’s financial district for $1.05 billion.

Another significant sale involved 1075 West Georgia Street, a 26-storey office tower that went for $275 million. Airport Executive Park in Richmond traded hands for $208 million.

It’s just that there weren’t as many of these as in previous years.

Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver president Ashley Smith attributes the slow commercial market to reduced economic activity in B.C.

The best-performing sector last year was industrial land, with 463 sales. That was down just 6.1 percent from 2018, with the value dropping by 6.9 percent.

Ecommerce has driven the industrial land market in recent years, with Amazon securing several large sites.

Office and retail transactions declined by 24 percent in 2019. But what’s worse from the standpoint of commissions is that the dollar volume in this area plunged by 65.8 percent.

Commercial land sales were also slow, with a 54.1 percent drop in transactions and a 61.5 decrease in dollar volume in 2019.

Multifamily land sales fell by 50.5 percent, with the dollar volume diminishing by 48.9 percent.

The Real Estate Board of Vancouver’s territory does not include White Rock, North Delta, Surrey, and Langley.

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Toronto real estate firm supports residents and businesses during COVID-19 pandemic – National Post

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A Toronto real estate firm is offering residents of its properties $100 in UberEats gift cards or grocery gift cards to help support them and local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to residents dated March 30, Shiplake Properties Ltd., which operates five rental apartment towers in Toronto, with currently 1,200 units, said it wants to support residents and local communities during the pandemic.

“Offering our assistance to both our residents and our local community will help ensure that the most vulnerable among us are supported during the crisis,” the letter says.

The real estate group, a third-generation business owned by the Latner family in the city, also offered credits toward rent increases from the past year to tenants, in addition to the $250,000 in gift cards.

We will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that our community is safe and secure

Stephen Bloom, the company’s CEO, said they have “deep roots” in Toronto, dating back to the 1940s, and that residents “find themselves facing the same challenges as the rest of society.”

“Many residents in our communities were going to have challenges paying their rent,” Bloom said in an interview. “We felt it was our obligation … something we absolutely wanted to do.”

In addition to the credits and gift cards, Shiplake has also established a dedicated email for residents so they can reach out if they’re facing additional difficulties and where issues will be addressed on a case-by-case basis, Bloom said.

“We wanted to both help our tenants and some of the local businesses that have been so badly impacted.”

The logical option, Bloom explained, was to help support local restaurants, which he said are struggling for survival, through their takeout services. Local business, such as restaurants, are important to a community because they bring much character to Toronto’s neighbourhoods, he said. The gift cards, hopefully, will give the local restauranteurs some business, he added.

Shiplake and the Latner Family Foundation have several other initiatives: they are spending $250,000 in April to make sure University Health Network emergency staff are able to pay for accommodations — they’re putting their own lives on the line, Bloom said, and some are staying in hotels so they can be closer to work. More details are still to come, he explained, but there will be support for food essentials at the Sinai and Sunnybrook Hospitals and support for The Daily Bread Foodbank.

As well, they have partnered with the National Gallery of Canada for a virtual tour on April 4 to provide entertainment at home, the letter said. It’ll happen on Instagram Live. Bloom said it’s something for people to do while they’re stuck at home isolating.

“We will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that our community is safe and secure,” said the letter.

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