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The most expensive house in Toronto? Fort Schwartz

Some reports peg the cost of the land and construction alone at $25 million

 Part two of a five-part series on the priciest digs in Canada, and who lives in them

It's been dubbed “Fort Schwartz”, but the name really doesn’t fit the home when you actually see it. The sprawling property at 37 Cluny Drive in Rosedale sits comfortably behind a six-foot wrought-iron fence, which is backed by taller shrubbery. On a June day, the filled-in bushes only partially obscure the Georgian redbrick that sits beyond. The front door is exposed to the street, at the end of a short walk that allows unimpeded access to much the front of the house. Hardly a fortress, but not the type of place you just walk up to and knock on the door.

The top end of Toronto’s residential housing market may not be as nutty as Vancouver, but it still has some big price tags.

There are currently just a few houses on the market in Toronto listed in the $20 million and up range, the mathematically themed “Integral House” in Rosedale and its $28 million price tag the most high profile of late. Go up to the Bridle Path, and there are a lot mansions recently listed around that level. 

But if you had unlimited resources and a determination to land the city’s best pad, you wouldn’t go on MLS. You’d fill a few vans with money and head over to the Cluny Drive doorstep of Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman and see if they'd part with their spread. (Don't hold you're breathe. It isn't for sale, and they don't need the money).

Gerald Schwartz, president and chief executive officer of Onex Corp

The two are about as close to royalty as you get in Canada’s corporate capital, with Schwartz the CEO and top shareholder of own-everything conglomerate Onex Corp, and Reisman the hugely influential founder and CEO of Indigo Books and Music. Look in the Canadian encyclopedia under “power couple” and… you know the rest. Their combined net worth is close to $2.5 billion, according to Canadian Business magazine. So when the time came to build their dream home, they dreamt big.

City of Toronto records show the house at 37 Cluny Dr, was built in 1903. But it was construction back in the early 2000s that turned what was an attractive dwelling in the city’s nicest neighbourhood into Toronto’s most valuable house.

“The only one nicer than Gerry Schwartz’s is Casa Loma,” says Re/Max luxury realtor Mike Donia.

“(His) is the very top because he did an assembly. He picked up neighbouring properties and joined them all together.”

The house was built in 1903 but it was construction back in the early 2000s that turned it into Toronto’s most valuable property

The property gained notoriety (and its pejorative nickname) when Schwartz and Reisman bought up three adjacent properties and demolished two houses (one of them also a 1902 house) to expand the estate.

Some reports peg the cost of the land and construction alone at $25 million, and with the insanity premium built into today’s real estate market, a buyer today would likely have to do much better.

It would be worth a pretty penny more than the houses currently on the market for just shy of $30 million, says Donia.

The main house alone stands out following the renovations. The main structure faces west on Cluny Drive just south of Crescent Road. On the south, a wing extends to the southeast, and a smaller wing just out on the north.

Along the north end of the property, a new low building extends on to the Crescent road properties, connected to the main house by a covered walkway. In the southeast quadrant of the estate, on a lot that fronts Cluny Ave to the south, sit a swimming pool and a greenhouse. Oh yeah, and there’s also a smaller guesthouse on the south end across from the greenhouse, just in case the mansion is full.

Some reports peg the cost of the land and construction alone at $25 million

While swinging wood doors on the south end give road access to the greenhouse, parking is underground, via a recessed garage that exits on to Cluny Dr.

Despite all the buildings, much of the property is green space, including a garden that the Toronto Star wrote up 2012 when Schwartz and Reisman threw open the doors for a Toronto Botanical Garden tour.

Whether or not neighbours have warmed to the compound, some good did come of the construction (in addition to providing an “I wish” property to gossip about): the demolition of the Crescent Road houses helped focus community attention on the importance of preservation of heritage houses.

Which means that if you’re looking for a Rosedale Estate that takes up half a city block, this is the one to get, because they aren’t building any more.

The last of its kind in Rosedale