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Toronto's Regent Theatre Selling for $9 Million

Historic Theatre Part of Dying Breed of Small Venues But Unlikely to Be Torn Down for Development Play
December 7, 2017
Another one of Toronto's grand old theatres is on the market, but one of the agents selling the Regent Theatre at 551 Mount Pleasant Rd. said it is unlikely to be torn down.

Built in 1927, the 600-seat theatre with a mezzanine level for administration offices faces historical landmark designation that will have to be honoured by anyone buying the property.

"We've had a bunch of tours since it went on the market (in late August) but while it's not officially historical, it's on the list (to be declared so). We think it's likely," said Patrick Cowie, senior vice president with Colliers International, which is listing the building for $9 million.

In Toronto's current red-hot development cycle, the 14,848-square-foot lot, including 52 feet of frontage, might have been part of a land play to build more high-rise housing. Instead, Cowie says the theatre won't be "knocked down" but could house some other commercial use.

One possibility is another so-called event theatre, which was the fate of the Eglinton Grand and Capitol Theatre - two other historical venues in the North Toronto district, where Colliers notes 25% of the population has a household income of more than $125,000.

The Regent Theatre was designed by architect Murray Brown and built as Toronto expanded north from Lake Ontario. It opened as The Belsize, named after a neighbourhood in London, England, but stopped screening films in 1953 and was turned into a live theatre and christened The Crest - at the time the only rival to Toronto's famed Royal Alexandra.

By 1971, it had been renovated and renamed The Regent, and it started showing films again.

"It could be an event theatre or turned into any type of zoning permitted," said Cowie, doubting the marquee of the building has to be maintained as part of any historical preservation.

The siblings who inherited the building from their father don't really want to run the theatre anymore, and multiplex theatres with multiple screens have made for stiff competition. "It's just harder for independents," he said.

The site is still what the agent calls a "great piece of real estate" with a deep lot that includes parking.

"I think the buyer is going to have to be a user type because an investor will have a tough time making something of it. It has to be someone who can make use of it," said Cowie, noting the theatre will continue to operate and play films until a buyer is found. "Likely the buyer will continue to keep it open until they figure out what they want to do. The theatre is not closing anytime soon."

Garry Marr, Toronto Market Reporter  CoStar Group   
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