Here in Vancouver, we have a housing crisis. There’s a lot of issues wrong with proper housing in this province, just ask my own mother. She could give some details about BC Housing and its flaws. But over in Toronto it’s another big issue over one particular building. Welcome to Charlotte’s Castle. It’s not a real castle, otherwise younger me would’ve bought it for that gold-digger who flirted with me years ago. It’s called Charlotte’s Castle because it’s a big ol’ building with the most luxurious design as well as apartments being the size of houses, and one of the residents living there is Charlotte Mickie who has a lot of great things there. Other residents in the apartments include Bobbi Speck, Neil MacDonald, Rodolfo Moseres, Dandi Maestre, former building superintendent Magda Kubik, and even former tenants as well as people who studied historic details of the building like Shawn Micallef, a journalist.
So it starts out as a tour of the building showing it as one of the greatest though also most expensive places to live. Things were all good for everyone who planned to live there forever until one day, a dutch company called Prowinko bought the building and had plans to renovict everything. Huh boy. I know one family who went through similar issues with their landlords at one point, though one particular member of that family is slowly getting their disturbing nature revealed by backstabbers and ex-friends. Please don’t ask how I know about that, let’s get back to the documentary.
Prowinko has already made elaborate plans such as one of the tallest modern glass skyscrapers in Toronto, and one of their big plans was to take what was already a building with big condos and convert into one gigantic building, a shoddy McMansion if you will. Prowinko’s Managing Director Benjamin Rekers talks about things from his perspective too showing some of the elaborate renovations in the process. This comes as a shock to the residents who never heard about Prowinko until the purchase, and it sets them on edge. Everyone shares their stories and experiences, and what did they plan to do? Charlotte made the plan to round as many different people to fight against these renovations so she and her neighbours could still have a place to live. After all there’s only so much they can put up with given the noise happening. Living across the street from a demolition site myself, I can relate. Once the company had removed a few ancient heritage windows, Charlotte took action and called the Toronto Heritage Preservation Services to make Prowinko grind to a halt. As the neighbours come together in an alliance, they do research and become activists in Spadina to stop new developments. But will this building ever be designated as a heritage building after all those renovations?
However, this documentary doesn’t only focus on the fight, it talks about history of the building as it reveals Sir Henry Pellatt used to live there until he lost a lot of money from the city of Toronto taxing him hard and the fact that the hydroelectric system was made public. The residents talk about the really old fashioned elevator, how Charlotte worked as a sales agent for Independent movies and Bobbi did some activism in her younger years. They even go further into saying how many Canadian artists lived there too.
Jamie Kastner got some great stories out of everyone from so many different sides. People who helped save the building and those who renovated it as well. Jamie was not afraid to ask some of the most intense questions from what went wrong during renovations to the conflicts between the residents and Prowinko. It was also a thrill to see both the design of the house and the lives of people who lived there for both and short durations of time. It’s a documentary that provides so much detail about both the past and present about an ancient building in Toronto. Who knows what the future holds for that building, but I hope it stays for centuries.
Charlotte’s Castle may have had a short quick theatrical run, but it’s available to see on Youtube as well. Much more to check out there compared to this review.