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Why one Toronto heritage home is selling for $1

Built in the 1880s, the William Harris Home is described as "prime development opportunity" in central Toronto.

The William Harris Home, located at 450 Pape Ave., has appeared in MLS listings with an asking price of just $1.

Liz Beddall/Metro

The William Harris Home, located at 450 Pape Ave., has appeared in MLS listings with an asking price of just $1.

A 25,000-square foot heritage property in Toronto’s east end – with a past both sordid and noble – is back on the real estate market and listed for only $1.

However, like many properties in the city, it’s expected to sell for more than asking.

“We’re just putting it out there and seeing what potential it has,” said real estate agent Matthew Pringle. “There’s no point putting a certain number on it because for some people it will be overpriced and for some it will be a steal.”

Originally built by William Harris in the 1880s, the home at 450 Pape Ave. was bought by the Salvation Army in 1930 and used as a home for single mothers. In 2010, the building received heritage designation and the city mused about buying it to convert into affordable housing.

However, the plan was kiboshed by then-mayor Rob Ford and the Salvation Army sold the building privately for $1.7 million in 2011.

“The plan went down in flames,” said Coun. Paula Fletcher, a champion of the city taking on the property. “It was really a lost opportunity to maintain the building’s social purpose.”

Fletcher was surprised to see the property back on the market Monday.

“I’ve never seen anything listed for a dollar,” she said.

The Rose and Thistle Group had bought the property from the Salvation Army, but lost it – and others, including the Red Door Family Shelter in Leslieville – after a judge ruled they stole money from Toronto diet doctor Stanley Bernstein, who was an investor.

Pringle said the property’s current owners bought it two years ago after it went into receivership. They have plans to develop it into a 28-unit condominium, but are testing the waters to see if someone with “a grander vision” is willing to buy it.

Fletcher is considering asking to the city to look into buying the home, in order to fulfill the original plan, but she suspects the price will be out of reach.

“I just wish we had secured the building back in 2010,” she said. “We need everyone to be able to stay in the city, not just wealthy people who can afford million-dollar homes.”

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