Although glass regularly falls from downtown’s towers, it’s rare for someone to actually get clocked (the most-frequent victims seem to be luxury vehicles). Yesterday, part of a balcony at the Shangri-La on University fell 15 storeys and landed on a 53-year-old man’s head. Luckily, the victim only suffered minor injuries and was able to walk inside to ask for help. Still, probably the last thing hotel management wanted to happen when it’s chock-full of visiting celebrities. [National Post]
Even though we’ll be cheering for the Toronto Argonauts in Sunday’s Grey Cup, we half-hoped Calgary Stampeders fans would succeed in their plan to parade a horse through the posh lobby of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. Stamps fans have been plotting to recreate a famous 1948 Grey Cup festival stunt, even though Fairmont officials maintained the exploit would post health and safety risks for both horse and guests. This morning, the determined Calgarians tried anyway, managing to get Marty, a lovely horse from Ontario, onto the sidewalk in front of the hotel. Ultimately, staff kept the doors locked, despite Marty’s best efforts to nose them open. Don’t feel too sorry for him, though, as he was welcomed inside (and lavished with attention) at First Canadian Place. [Toronto Star]
The Shangri-La Hotel at University and Adelaide opened its doors on Friday, ready just in time for TIFF (well, nearly in time—there are still a few finishing touches to come on the health and wellness areas and guest rooms). And, after watching the tower’s progress, admiring the $5-million sculpture by Chinese artist Zhang Huan and scrounging for details on the adjacent Momofuku restaurants, we were gratified to find that the 66-storey building is as luxurious as expected. There are walls covered in raw silk, a Fazioli grand piano from Italy and several subtle Asian touches, including a Japanese garden and two large tea libraries to hold dozens of hand-picked looseleaf teas.
Toronto’s new luxury hotels have elicited a lot of praise—they’ve given the city new restaurants, bars and ballrooms, and at least two celebrity chefs. But even the most magnanimous Torontonian would have a hard time applauding their aesthetic merits—ultimately the towers blend in with the skyline: more glass, more steel, remarkable yet forgettable. It was refreshing, then, when the Shangri-La Hotel unveiled its new $5-million sculpture, Rising, by the Chinese artist Zhang Huan—a polymath sculptor, painter, performance artist and opera director. Uniformed doormen, it turns out, needn’t be the only spiffy-looking things outside the lobby. Anchored in a pool of water at the base of the shiny glass tower at University Avenue and Richmond Street, Rising is a steel tree branch adorned with a flock of pigeons, sprawling toward the sky. The 22-metre-long piece is impressive for its scale alone, but it’s also a fluttering mass of civic pride and a symbol of Toronto’s increasingly bold presence in the global art world. The sculpture kicked off an inspiring display of inter-institutional cooperation to capitalize on one of contemporary art’s most inventive figures. An exhibition of Huan’s paintings—created using incense ash from Buddhist temples—opened at the AGO, and a few days later, the Canadian Opera Company staged his production of Handel’s Semele at the Four Seasons Centre. But the piece that left the most indelible impression is, happily, the one that’s here to stay.
Like another storied Toronto hotel, the recently shuttered Sutton Place will soon be a condo tower. This weekend, Lanterra unveiled its redevelopment plans for the historic hotel at Bay and Wellesley, and the renderings have architecture aficionados upset (though probably not as upset as the hotel’s temporarily displaced tenants). First built in 1967 in the concrete-loving brutalist style of the times, the 33-storey structure is set to grow by 10 floors, and its 375 hotel rooms will become 600 condo units. Critics say the design ignores the architectural merits of the building, focusing on tinted glass instead of concrete—but then, brutalism isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. We’re still hung up on the name change; we hope when the building becomes the ”The Britt Condos,” the memories of Michael Jackson, Sophia Loren, Liberace and other legendary visitors don’t disappear as well. [Urban Toronto]
Sure, their high-profile restaurants and over-the-top ribbon cuttings have netted the Ritz-Carlton, Trump Tower, Shangri-La and Four Seasons plenty of press, but we’re still wondering if people are actually buying the luxury condos. In January, we noticed some early signs that the thousand-plus upscale suites heading to market could be too many (even for Toronto’s hot condo market), and this week, Reuters investigated how well the sales have been going. It turns out that none of the towers has sold out yet, and developers are feeling a wee bit nervous about getting their initial stock sold before the resale market kicks in. We broke down the numbers to see which tower is outdoing the rest and which is having the most trouble finding buyers.
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Jeff Stober, the hotelier behind the Drake, is planning on exporting his brand of Queen West cool to Prince Edward County. Stober recently bought the former Devonshire Inn (to be renamed the Drake Devonshire Inn) in the village of Wellington for $1.3 million, and he plans to turn it into a six-room boutique hotel with a “rough-luxe design palette,” a restaurant serving locally sourced ingredients and a deck overlooking the lake that he hopes will be as scene-y as the rooftop patio on Queen. Stober told the Globe and Mail that he envisions the hotel as a “camp for grown-ups” eager to leave the city on the weekend but still hang out someplace hip (he plans to offer cultural programming from local artists and musicians, plus an old-school games room). However, urban vacationers, oohing and ahhing over the region’s rustic charm, may get a cool reception from locals. Prince Edward County residents have historically shunned development, afraid of the area becoming resort-like (i.e., getting spoiled)—and that anti-outsider mentality has been partly responsible for hindering previous attempts at trendy development. Here we were thinking Lansdowne was gentrification’s next frontier. [Globe and Mail]
The time has come again for architecture buffs (or bored Internet users) to vote in the annual Pug Awards, Toronto’s people’s choice awards for architecture. Last year, the TIFF Bell Lightbox won in the commercial category and the 75 Portland building won the residential prize, and this year there are some similarly high-profile projects in the mix: the Ritz-Carlton, the Shops of Summerhill and the One Bedford condo building. However, we’re disappointed to see that many of the candidates have a certain tall, glassy sameness about them. Head to the Pug website to vote “love it,” “like it” or “hate it” on each of the 44 nominees and help choose which among them will receive this, er, lovely trophy.
The Wall Street Journal says Toronto’s high-profile Trump International Hotel and Tower has had a “weak start.” According to the paper, the Trump Tower (which recently opened with much fanfare) has only sold 60 per cent of its condos and 85 per cent of its hotel condos—stats that compare poorly to other rival luxury towers popping up in the city. Moreover, at least eight investors have contacted lawyers to help them slide out of their contracts and recoup hundreds of thousands of dollars in deposits for a variety of reasons: they (and many others) are worried Toronto’s condo bubble will soon burst; they invested ahead of the economic downturn and no longer have the cash to complete the purchase; or, according to one real-estate lawyer, they “were dazzled by the Trump name and marketing, and they did not take into consideration that they were paying in excess of a thousand dollars a foot.” Whoops. [Wall Street Journal]
The new Trump International Hotel and Tower is over the top—naturally, so was the opening. Rob and Doug Ford (along with Rob’s wife Renata, who made a rare public appearance with her husband), Blue Jay J.P. Arencibia and Maple Leaf John-Michael Liles were all on hand to watch Donald Trump and his kids Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr. cut the ribbon on the tower (using gold-plated scissors brought in on silver trays by scantily-clad models, of course). Technically, the 65-storey luxury behemoth at Bay and Adelaide opened its doors in January, but, hey, everyone loves a ceremony, especially when it involves The Donald entering in a procession of Toronto police officers and bagpipes.
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Reports of Toronto’s ongoing should-we-or-shouldn’t-we casino debate have made their way to Nevada. Gaming giant MGM Resorts International, the company behind Vegas’s Bellagio, Luxor, Mandalay Bay and The Mirage, wants Toronto to agree to the Ontario government’s casino idea. So much so that MGM hired local firm Sussex Strategy Group to lobby city hall on its behalf (Sussex has already had a chat with anti-casino councillor Mike Layton, who wants to bar Ontario Place as a possible site). MGM is floating the idea of a $2 billion-to-$6 billion investment in the city that would go beyond the usual slot machines and craps tables and include hotels, convention space and spas. It’s still too early for specific details of the mega-complex, but we’d bet against understatement: after all, these are the folks who decided to build a 110-foot replica of the Great Sphinx of Giza in front of one of their hotels. [Globe and Mail]