For years, St. Basil's Separate School at 34-38 Hazelton Avenue had sat abandoned, the impressive Gothic Revival façade dating back to 1928 diminished by boarded-up windows and general neglect.
But last Saturday, less than a month after the heritage property had been transformed into a sleek condo presentation centre, a certain Hollywood power player gave his blessing to the proposed residential property where he will be purchasing one of 18 exclusive units.
It turns out that Mark Wahlberg has a serious soft spot for Toronto and his future home at 36 Hazelton, the name and address of the posh project, represents his commitment to spending more time here, for work and for play.
"All the movies I've made here have been a success; the crews are so great to work with and I enjoy the restaurants and the golf," said the prolific producer and actor who flew into Toronto from Boston with the express purpose of checking out the site and meeting the developers. "In all honesty, I have more friends here than New York."
Among his closest pals is hockey legend Tie Domi, who joined the onetime rapper for a close look at 36 Hazelton's three-dimensional model and layouts presented on a flat-screen television.
Mr. Domi recalls meeting Mr. Walhberg at The China Club, a New York hotspot, in the early nineties. "It was Tyson, Mark and me," he says. "We all had booths."
Flash forward 20 years and the party boys are now fathers and have teamed up on various business projects. "We're like brothers," adds Mr. Domi. "Cut from the same cloth."
The late-day rendezvous played out like a scene from Entourage, the widely successful show that Mr. Wahlberg executive produces. Several other men arrived with the buff star (in training for a follow-up to The Fighter) including one with a tuft of hair shaped into an H (for Henry) below his crown and another who's known around town as Rasta Phil. The developers, Ken Zuckerman of Zinc Construction and Robert Cooper of Alterra, both appeared smartly dressed in black-on-black, to welcome the group.
36 Hazelton will be Mr. Wahlberg's only residence beyond the L.A. home he shares with his wife and four kids. "I moved to California thinking that's where people made movies, but I have made more here," says the Boston native. "It's nice to live where you do your projects."
Residences in 36 Hazelton are priced between $1.5-million and $12-million and the desirable two-bedroom units average 3,000 square feet in size. Private entrances, a wine-tasting room with bottle storage and a fitness studio are among the amenities designed with VIPs in mind.
Even though the property will not be ready for occupancy until the end of 2013, Mr. Wahlberg has already spent enough time here to establish a few favourite haunts. There's the steakhouse Harbour 60 and St. Basil's church, where he goes on Sunday mornings when in town.
But he's most looking forward to having his family around when he's working. "My kids are my life and being away from them is hard," says Mr. Wahlberg, who turns 40 tomorrow. "Maybe we'll do Nerf basketball on the terrace."