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A power investor's Rosedale roost
A banker puts his 1857 Toronto mansion on the block - hydraulic hot tub and all

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Friday, September 28, 2018 – Page H6

TORONTO -- 124 Park Rd.


Asking price: $22.8-million Taxes: $62,750.38 (2017) Lot size: 167.45 feet by 185 feet Listing agents: Jim Burnick, broker, senior vice-president of sales, Sotheby's International Realty Canada; Richard Silver, sales representative, global real estate adviser, Sotheby's International Realty Canada and Nicole Zarry, sales representative, Chestnut Park Real Estate

Standing on David Berry's veranda, looking out onto a small pool, coach house and ravine, there's one thing you don't expect to have happen: a hot tub emerge from the underneath the deck itself.

Custom-built and powered by a hydraulic system, the far end of the deck opens up and from it rises a steaming hot tub. The elaborate mechanism was the result of a compromise: the kids wanted a hot tub, but he didn't like the look.

"[Hot tubs] are fun for the kids, but they are kind of ugly," Mr. Berry said.

The hidden hot tub is one of many luxury elements of his Toronto Rosedale home, which is now on the market, listed for $22.8-million.

THE BACKSTORY Mr. Berry, an investor and former head of preferred-share trading at Bank of Nova Scotia - and at one point the bank's highest-paid employee - found 124 Park Rd. when it was on the market in March, 2000. It was also at the moment when the Nasdaq stock index was hovering at around 4,900 points.

"There were billionaires being made every day," he recalled.

He put in a bid, but it wasn't immediately accepted. He didn't get the house for another two years, in March, 2002, for $5.5-million.

"The irony is, if you look at the timing of that, it is pretty much the trough [of the Nasdaq]," he said.

One of the things that really drew him to the home was the land that it sits on, he said. "It is a one-of-a-kind lot. In any other city - put it in New York, London or Tokyo - it is unimaginable."

Its total size is just under an acre, according the listing agent Jim Burtnick, and it's located about a one-minute drive from the bustling intersection of Yonge and Bloor Streets in Toronto.

"Typically, you would only find this size of a lot in the Bridle Path area."

The other attractive feature is its history. The home is the second-oldest Rosedale house, built in 1857 in a Georgian style for James Boyd Davis. Originally, a one-storey building, a second floor was added in 1860. A coach house and the veranda were built in 1904. Some time after that, the house became the home of George R. Geary, a former MP and Toronto mayor, which is how it got its name, the Geary House, after it received a heritage distinction from the province in 1990.

Over its lifetime, the house has seen many changes, with the biggest being its revival by the owner before Mr. Berry that focused on restoring the elegance of the original craftsmanship.

During his ownership, Mr. Berry has also made a number of changes. Initially, they began with installing a brick wall around the property for privacy.

That turned out to be a tougher challenge than originally thought. "A lot of people have opinions when you do anything to a house of this stature. I think they thought I was going to put in some gaudy, golden fence."

Instead, he employed the same restoration team that worked on the house earlier and used brick sourced from Pennsylvania to match the aesthetic of the of the 161-year-old home.

As he told the neighbours: "It's going to look like it has been there for 200 years. Now you'd never know the brick wall around the house wasn't there from the very beginning."

Mr. Berry also embarked on a redesign of the bedrooms on the second floor, as well as the loft space on the third floor. A family room was added where the kitchen's extra-large pantry once stood and the entire basement was transformed to add a gym (complete with a bathroom, steam room and a sauna), wine cellar, nanny suite, TV area, billiards space and a room that has been transformed into an indoor ball hockey rink.

Outside, he worked with his neighbours to drain some water that had accumulated at the bottom of the ravine (which is part of his lot). "Suddenly, we had a third of an acre available. Now it's my kids' soccer field."

In addition to the main structure, 124 Park also features a separate garage and a coach house, which he uses as his office. "It's a completely separate dwelling with its own entrance and separate locks," he said. "You can be completely on your own there."

The coach house features its own bedroom, bathroom and kitchen area and looks out to the ravine on one side and the pool on the other.

As Mr. Burtnick pointed out, the renovations were custom to Mr. Berry's family, from the ombre painted walls in his daughters' bedrooms to the rotating shoe racks featured in all four closets in the mudroom to the polished silver tub that sits in the centre of the master bathroom.

All of these features squarely place 124 Park Road in Toronto's high-end real estate bracket, he said. "In fact, I'd put this in the super-luxury category."

The price tag was recently increased to $22.8-million from $18.8-million. Mr. Burtnick explained that assessing the value of this home is more of an art than science, but he started with the basics: lot size, square footage and renovation costs. "But the value that is harder to put a price on is the history," he said.

Further complicating the issue of figuring out the right price is that, in Mr. Burtnick's opinion, there are no comparable dwellings in Toronto.

The only points of reference were two other high-end properties - 120 Inglewood Dr. and 10

Highland Ave. - which sold at $12,880,000 and $18,250,000, respectively.

He knows that there are buyers out there for these types of properties - the trick is finding them.

"The challenge is getting this in front of the right people globally.

They might not even be looking, you just need to position it so they can find it."

FAVOURITE FEATURES Mr. Burtnick and Mr. Berry both have a fondness for the woodpanelled library on the first floor.

"The library - the way it was restored - still stuns me," Mr. Berry said.

That said, it's not the room that necessarily wows visitors.

That would be the tunnel, which connects the house to the coach house by snaking around the pool. During his tenure, Mr. Berry updated it by adding heated stone floor tiles and lined the white walls with some of his art collection. "No matter who comes to the home, the tunnel is the big hit."

Mr. Berry said selling the home will be bittersweet, as he has finally the home just as he's always wanted it.

"I'm still an investment guy, though," he said. "If I get the right bid - it will be sad to go."

Associated Graphic

The second-oldest home in the Toronto neighbourhood of Rosedale, the Georgian-style building is also known as the Geary House, for George Geary, a former Toronto mayor who lived there for a time. It received a heritage distinction from the province in 1990.


Owner David Berry took pains to ensure the brick fence around the property, top, would respect the heritage at 124 Park Rd. The house has been updated, but retains its mid-19th century craftsmanship, such as the wood-pannelled library, above right.


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