385 Brunswick Ave., No. 107, Toronto
Asking Price: $3,498,000
Taxes: $12,784.15 (2019)
Monthly maintenance fees: $3,380.44
Agents: : Christian Vermast and Paul Maranger (Sotheby’s International Realty Canada)
In 1915, the Loretto Abbey Day School opened its doors in a stately, red-brick building among the Victorian-era residences of Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood
For decades, the Sisters of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary educated young girls in the five-storey building, designed by architect Neil G. Beggs in the Edwardian classical style.
In the late 1990s, a fire broke out and parts of the building were damaged. By the early 2000s, the Loretto Sisters had moved on to a new location and the heritage building languished for a time under a new owner.
In 2004, Context Development purchased the property and began drawing up plans to convert the heritage building into a boutique condo. The Loretto would consist of approximately 50 units with a row of townhouses alongside.
Bernadette and Tony Zappacosta were living in Oakville, Ont. and commuting daily to downtown Toronto when they learned about the project on the drawing board.
“That was a very exciting concept,” Ms. Zappacosta says of the move to a neighbourhood in the centre of the city. “Commuting was becoming a challenge.”
Ms. Zappacosta says the project and the former school held a special nostalgia for her because she and her six siblings attended St. Monica Catholic School, where some of the teachers were Loretto Sisters.
When she was a child, Ms. Zappacosta’s father owned a used car business. During the holiday season, the lot was filled with Christmas trees for sale.
Ms. Zappacosta still has memories of her dad delivering trees to special locations such as the Hospital for Sick Children and the Loretto convents.
The historical building reminded her of the gracious apartment buildings in European cities such as London and Milan.
The ground-floor space also allowed the couple and their two teenage children to make the transition from a suburban house to a downtown residence that doesn’t feel like a modern, high-rise condo. They purchased two units and had them converted into one.
Ms. Zappacosta says their unit was tailored from the portion of the building where retired nuns lived into old age.
“Our great room was their kitchen.”
The house today
As a ground-floor suite, No. 107 has the rare advantage of having its own front door, so residents don’t need to take an elevator or pass through common space in order to enter the home, point out real estate agents Christian Vermast and Paul Maranger of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada.
The arrangement offers “breathing room, separation and private space,” which a lot of people are seeking during the coronavirus pandemic, they say. Brunswick Avenue is also a quiet residential street they point out.
“We are still astounded at how quiet and peaceful it remains,” Ms. Zappacosta says of the setting.
The 2,910-square-foot suite has three bedrooms and four bathrooms.
The principal rooms at the front of the home include a combined living room and dining room lit by the original bow windows.
“There’s so much light and warmth,” Ms. Zappacosta says.
The great room combines the kitchen, breakfast area and family room, with doors opening to an outdoor terrace.
The kitchen has sapele wood cabinets and lots of counter space for laying out buffet-style meals. Ms. Zappacosta has a large extended family and she enjoys gathering everyone together often.
“A kitchen for an Italian family is a very important room.”
A hallway leads to a split-level master suite with a bedroom area, sitting room with fireplace, and his-and-hers ensuite bathrooms.
Doors from the sitting room open to a second outdoor terrace.
Ms. Zappacosta says having a second sitting room is ideal at parties because the younger generation can congregate in one area and the older relatives in another.
Two other bedrooms each have ensuite bathrooms.
The Zappacostas had plenty of built-in cabinets, desks and display shelves installed throughout the suite. The couple own men’s clothing boutiques in Yorkville and favour the storage built-ins provide.
Throughout the suite, ceilings are 10 feet high. The couple also added traditional elements such as panelled walls and cove ceiling details so that the interior would remain in keeping with the heritage exterior. They chose limestone floors throughout.
Many loft conversions don’t include shared amenities but the Loretto offers a fitness centre in a glass pavilion just across the courtyard from No. 107. There’s also an underground parking garage. A semi-private staircase leads from the garage to the kitchen door of the suite.
The Zappacostas’ son and daughter were uncertain at first about moving away from their friends in Oakville. But they quickly came to recognize the advantages of living downtown – especially on the weekends.
The neighbourhood is home to an eclectic mix of people of all ages, Ms. Zappacosta says.
The shops and cafés of Yorkville, the cultural institutions of Bloor Street and the University of Toronto campus are all nearby.
“It ended up being a great move for us,” she says. “There are a lot of youthful people.”
The best feature
Guests can flow easily between the two outdoor terraces during parties, Ms. Zappacosta says. During large celebrations, the overflow crowd can also wander onto the Loretto’s outdoor courtyard, which is peaceful all of the time, she adds.
The barbecue stands just outside the kitchen door, so grilling can take place year-round, she says.
The large outdoor space surrounded by greenery provides a tranquil spot for dining, reading or relaxing with a glass of wine, she adds.
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