Client Profile: Amsterdam Square Apartments Inc.

March 18th, 2014 by Iler Campbell
A full page ad in The Globe for "Toronto's most modern apartments" -- September 30, 1925. Click to view the full page (pdf).

A full page ad in the Globe for “Toronto’s most modern apartments” — September 30, 1925. Click to view the full page (pdf).

Amsterdam Square Apartments Inc. (ASAI) was founded in 1984 by the tenants who occupied the stately but somewhat neglected building on St. Clair Ave. West in Toronto, adjacent to Amsterdam Square Parkette on Avenue Road. The building had been erected in an astonishing four months in the summer of 1925: the permit had been issued in early June, and the building was almost fully occupied by the end of September the same year. It was advertised in the Globe newspaper as “Toronto’s Most Modern Apartments,” boasting central refrigeration, automatic elevators, and a valet who was to “make himself useful generally.” It was operated as a rental apartment building for six decades.

By the early ‘80s, the building was looking rather tired and the corporate landlord announced that it “wanted to really fix the place up.” They notified the 24 tenants that their rents would therefore increase by 99%. One tenant, a real estate professional, rallied the troops, and together the tenants sought a way to own their own homes. At the time, the City government was attempting to stanch the ongoing loss of affordable rental accommodations to condominium conversion, so that potential route was blocked. Instead, the tenants incorporated ASAI as a business under the Ontario Business Corporations Act.

Unlike a co-op, or a  co-ownership, or a condominium corporation, ASAI is organized as a business owned by shareholders. Each shareholder owns a number of shares roughly corresponding to the square footage of the apartment they occupy. When a vote is called, it is the number of shares counted, not the number of hands raised, that determines the outcome. Nonetheless, the day-to-day operation of the organization is very similar to that of a co-op or condo. A volunteer board of directors elected at annual general meetings works closely with a property manager and legal counsel to manage the property, handle the finances, and plan and carry out major projects.

An article about 200 St. Clair Ave. West from Construction magazine -- May 1926. Click to view the full article (pdf).

An article about 200 St. Clair Avenue West in Construction magazine — May 1926. Click to view the full article (pdf).

The unique governance structure of ASAI and some ambiguous language in its Articles and By‑laws have given rise to several important but difficult questions, for example around responsibility for repair and replacement of the 88-year-old windows. In 2013, the board of directors turned to Iler Campbell for assistance in answering some of those questions, and together we have already made significant strides.

ASAI represents one of a number different models of community ownership among Iler Campbell’s clients.  Common among all models is the need for communities to figure out a way to live together while managing their important shared asset.  And we’re particularly proud to be associated with such a beautiful piece of Toronto’s history!

Filed in: Client Profiles