Photo: GMAP

The sprawling Galleria Mall site at the corner of Dufferin Street and Dupont Street is like a 12-acre blank canvas for a developer – at least that’s how the lot’s former co-owner Michael Cappuccitti sees it.

And over the years, he’s hardly been the only one to notice its untapped potential.

Since late 2009, more than 200 inquiries about the property have been made from both agents and developers, Cappuccitti said in an email after BuzzBuzzHome News reported the mall’s sale to Freed Developments and possibly ELAD Canada.

“That’s not an exaggeration,” said Cappuccitti, emphasizing he never even “actively marketed” the property, which has been in his family since about two years after Galleria’s August 1972 opening when his father Rocco bought it with his partner Hy Burstein.

Despite the high volume of inquiries, Cappuccitti said only three offers reached the deposit stage in the past 15 years, including the most recent that led to a sale. “Third time’s the charm I suppose,” he said.

So for the past six years Cappuccitti and Burstein’s son Jay focused on the mall’s day-to-day operations, leasing out retail space and handling more long-range planning as well. But as areas like the nearby Junction drew in more developers, the eventual sale of the mall – a leftover from the ‘70s with a near-endless parking lot to prove it – made sense.

“With Toronto continuing to grow as it is and new (old) neighborhoods being sought out, infiltrated and redeveloped, this whole area of west Toronto seemed like a logical next move for developers,” he said in the email outlining why now was the time to sell.

Although Cappuccitti runs his own development firm, Permian Properties Canada Inc., which has built a number of condos in Simcoe County, he said, “I alone am not equipped to take this property on to its next life.”

“This is a job for a major developer who knows this city’s inner workings intimately and can carry it forward to where and what it needs to become,” he explained.

And the Galleria site could become a considerable development. Back in mid-2004, a rezoning application for the property was approved, and it was rezoned to allow for a mixed-use development including commercial space and 1,600 residential units, according to the City of Toronto’s planning department.

Since then, no new applications for the site have come through, the City confirmed.

Cappuccitti said he could not confirm that Freed Developments was the new owner “because there were a number of reassignments of the agreement of purchase and sale by Ontario numbered companies throughout the process.”

According to BlogTO, 2470347 Ontario Inc. is the property’s new owner and Avison Young Property Advisors and Managers Inc. is the property manager.

In the email, Cappuccitti entertained the idea of partnering with another developer to revamp the large parcel of land, but with Hy Burstein’s death in 2013 and his own father now 84, he said “outright disposition was the desired result.”

Today, with the property out of his hands, Cappuccitti is in the unfamiliar position of no longer controlling the lot’s future. Still, he has an idea of what he’d like to see happen to the site that’s been in his family for over four decades.

“I would hope that it could become a live, work, play, buy, and eat multi-use site that is well thought-out,” he said. “Done correctly, the space could easily become the cornerstone of the revamping of that entire corridor along Dupont.”

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