hotels

The Informer

Real Estate

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The Park Hyatt is probably about to be sold

(Image: Google Street View)

(Image: Google Street View)


Like the Royal York before it, Toronto’s Park Hyatt hotel is now up for grabs. According to the Financial Post, Hyatt is on the verge of selling the high-end Yorkville property, located at the corner of Bloor Street and Avenue Road, to an unnamed buyer for a price that is rumoured to be upwards of $100 million. The sale would reportedly be conditional on the building remaining a Hyatt for at least 40 years. The potential buyer’s plans for the property haven’t been made public, but the Post’s sources say it’s likely that the hotel’s rooms would be enlarged, and that some luxury condo units could be added to the mix. There’s been no word on the likely fate of the roof lounge, either, so enjoy it while you can.

The Informer

Features

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Trumped: the multi-million-dollar lawsuit over Toronto’s most controversial new condo-hotel

The Trump tower, downtown’s tallest new condo-hotel, is a monument to excess. And, like its tycoon namesake, it’s surrounded by controversy: 38 investors are suing the hotel for millions. Lessons from a post-crash real estate market

Trumped

At the Trump Toronto opening: Trump executive Jim Petrus and Talon chairman Alex Shnaider, with Donald, Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump (Image: newswire.ca/CNW Group)

In the city’s new five-star hotel landscape, the Ritz represents elegant European classicism, the Shangri-La cool, Asian chic, and the Trump unfettered American pomp. Like its loud-mouthed namesake, the Trump is brash, proud and full of bluster. Stock, the hotel’s restaurant and bar, is outfitted with shiny tufted black leather seating and silver accents. Its lobby, a shimmering expanse of marble and mirrors, seems sprung, fully formed, from the imagination of Joan Collins.

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The Goods

Shopping

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All Downhill From Here: nine top-notch ski getaways

Winter Travel: All Downhill From Here

Ski-loving Torontonians have it rough. The city’s in a topographic dead zone. How else to explain hour-long lineups at Blue Mountain? The only real option for good skiing: get out of town, the farther the better. Here, a few world-class destinations (that aren’t Whistler).

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The Informer

Features

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The (New) Four Seasons: How Issy Sharp and his flush friends plan to reclaim the haute hotel crown

Behind the Scenes at the New Four Seasons

As if competing in Toronto’s suddenly crowded luxury hotel business weren’t stressful enough, the new Four Seasons condo-hotel—which opens October 5 at Bay and Yorkville—has another burden to bear: it’s designed to be the flagship outpost of the 88-location brand. As the last light bulb was being screwed in, we dropped by to find out how the bosses plan to out-luxe the competition. Herewith, a numerical odyssey into the heart of the new Four Seasons.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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Introducing: Toronto’s new Shangri-La Hotel

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.

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The Informer

Features

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Reason to Love Toronto: because our most priceless art is free

Reasons to Love Toronto July 2012: because our most priceless art is free

The $5-million Rising, by Chinese sculptor Zhang Huan, at the base of the Shangri-La hotel and condo tower on University Avenue (Image: Daniel Neuhaus)

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.

The Informer

Features

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Q&A: Paul Godfrey, chair of the OLG, is on a mission to bring a Las Vegas–style casino to Toronto


Paul Godfrey

(Image: Mark Peckmezian)

You were a popular politician, brought the Blue Jays to town, resuscitated the National Post and cleaned up the OLG. Does the uproar over your latest crusade—bringing a casino to town—jeopardize your legacy?
Anyone familiar with my background knows I’d never do anything to injure Toronto’s image. This won’t be a few slot machines in a broken-down barn; it’ll be a world-class entertainment centre and a tourist magnet.

What will it look like?
I’m picturing something like the Venetian or the MGM Grand in Vegas—a ground-floor casino with a glamorous hotel and unbelievable shopping. I could also see a permanent Cirque du Soleil show.

Why do we need a casino?
If we don’t build one, our tourists will go to Boston, Cleveland and Baltimore, which are all building world-class casinos.

You live near the Bridle Path. Would you want a casino in your neighbourhood?
I make no apologies for having a very nice house. I grew up in poverty and earned my way. But there’s nowhere to put a casino on the Bridle Path.

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The Informer

Random Stuff

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Is the Four Seasons being stingy when it comes to severance pay?

The old Four Seasons Hotel, which will soon be converted to a condo building (Image: Danielle Scott)

The storied Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville is going condo, but not without a snag or two: several laid-off banquet servers are accusing management of cheating them out of some of their severance pay. Most of the employees involved worked at the hotel for decades and pulled in some decent paycheques once their tips and service charges (paid by clients up-front to the hotel and fully taxed as income) are factored in. But in talks with the servers’ union, the hotel excluded the service charges from the severance agreement, basing the pay-outs solely on wages—meaning there are some massive gaps between what the workers were earning, and what they’ll be getting as severance. An example: Alex Litkowski worked for the hotel for 26-years and made a whopping $80,000 last year; but, because his hourly wages added up to only $19,000, that’s all he’ll get from the hotel, which is obligated to provide a year’s pay to longtime employees. The dispute, now in arbitration, is another sign that hotel workers are aggressively looking out for their interests. That said, the unionized workers at the new Four Seasons on Bay Street, which will open this summer, will be paid less than the workers at the old location—and the three other new luxury hotels in Toronto are all non-union. [Toronto Star]

The Dish

Restaurants

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Food Network star Anthony Sedlak consulting on new hotel restaurant in Toronto

Sedlak at The American Cheesesteak Co. (Image: Sedlak)

Hidden away on Wynford Drive, at Eglinton and the DVP, the Toronto Don Valley Hotel and Suites is undergoing a $4-million transformation, which includes a food service overhaul courtesy of Food Network Canada star Anthony Sedlak, of The Main. Allied Hotel Properties, which bought the property in 1998, has joined forces with Atira Hotels of Chicago to re-brand the 353-room hotel as “the city’s first urban resort.”

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The Informer

Politics

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Las Vegas heavyweight MGM sends agents into Toronto’s casino debate

The restrained decor at the Luxor in Las Vegas (Image: Jordan)

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]

The Goods

Shopping

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Trump Toronto and Birks partner to sell $1,795 one-night packages (don’t worry, you get a shiny necklace)

(Images: Trump Hotel Toronto, Ryan Stubbs; Necklace, Birks)

It was announced this afternoon that the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto will be partnering with Birks to provide a one-night “Warm Your Heart” romantic getaway package for a mere $1,795 ($2,195 for two nights, if you’re feeling extra romantic and generous). Here’s what your money will get you: a one-bedroom suite (one bed, obviously); a complimentary bottle of champagne (okay, sounds pretty standard); a bouquet of roses (there’s nothing quite like receiving such a romantic gesture from a hotel concierge); a personalized note waiting in-room (a whole note that won’t be sexy because it is being dictated to a booking agent); a complimentary set of champagne flutes from Birks (to drink the complimentary champagne, natch); and a $1,500 gift certificate toward a piece from Ivanka Trump’s jewellery collection (and if your wife, girlfriend or mistress doesn’t like Ivanka’s jewels, then that’s her problem). Oh, and a 4 p.m. checkout, because you deserve it—after all, you did just spend over $2,000 for a one- or two-night stay at a Bay Street hotel.

The Informer

Features

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Reason to Love Toronto: four new five-star hotels are about to make staycations super-luxe

Reason to Love Toronto

Toronto is a great place to visit. Just ask the people who live nearby. Residents of Halton Region, a mere 30-minute drive down the QEW, made 153,000 overnight visits to the city in 2009, more than came from British Columbia, California, Texas or Illinois. The same goes for many of Toronto’s other bedroom communities: they could drive home after the show, but they prefer to stay the night. Tourism here is a giant house party, and our accommodations are getting a major upgrade with four new five-star hotels. Last February came the Ritz-Carlton on Wellington Street. January will mark the opening of the Trump Tower, a flamboyant structure at Bay and Adelaide whose 275-metre, 90-ton spire took 12 hours to lift into place (arguably Toronto’s greatest feat of high-rise engineering since the CN Tower). Asian Pacific–style opulence arrives next summer with the 65-storey Shangri-La on University Avenue. And our own luxury export to the world, Izzy Sharp’s Four Seasons, will finally get a hometown building worthy of its brand in summer 2012: two slender glass towers at Bay and Yorkville. The Manhattanization of our hotel industry is the result of an economy that continues to dodge the disasters befalling others. Together, the new hotels will provide 989 super-luxe rooms that are sure to be a hit with tourists. They may even resurrect Toronto in the eyes of Americans, whose impressions of us and willingness to visit are still tainted by the SARS crisis. But above all, they’ll make it more fun to splurge on ourselves.

The Informer

People

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Five things we learned about celebrity interior designer Lenny Kravitz

Lenny Kravitz (right) (Image: Elhormiguero)

Lenny Kravitz is a name we haven’t heard in a long time, save for occasional radio play of “American Woman” and news of his daughter Zoe’s exploits. It was recently announced that Kravitz has been pegged to design a 10,000-square-foot floor at Toronto’s Bisha Hotel and Residences downtown, and we’re intrigued at the idea of Kravitz extending his unique aesthetic sensibilities to interior design (although we can’t help but imagine snakeskin and leather everywhere). Check out five things we learned about Kravitz and his love for design below.

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The Informer

Features

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Destination Munkistan: A look at Peter Munk’s new Adriatic playground for the super-rich

The latest project of the gold magnate Peter Munk is a seaside resort and tax haven for fellow billionaires in the post-Soviet backwater of Tivat, Montenegro. A delirious tour of a world of champagne-drenched parties, supersize yachts and the recession-proof Ultra-High Net Worth Individual

Captain Fantastic: Peter Munk on his 40-metre yacht, the Golden Eagle, which has a full-time staff of five. (Image: Jim Ross)

Captain Fantastic: Peter Munk on his 40-metre yacht, the Golden Eagle, which has a full-time staff of five. (Image: Jim Ross)

There are birthday parties, and then there was Nathaniel Rothschild’s party this past July. The financier, scion of the prominent banking family and future baron was turning 40 and spent £1 million on the weekend-long extravaganza. The venue: Porto Montenegro, a newly developed luxury resort and marina in the Montenegrin coastal town of Tivat, on the southeast side of the Adriatic Sea. It was the sort of gathering that marks the end of an era or the birth of an empire—and in a way, for Europe’s youngest and smallest democracy, it was both.

Four hundred guests arrived at the village airport on private jets or stepped off the fleet of super-yachts that washed ashore from the world’s most glamorous tax havens—the Grenadines, Gibraltar, Grand Cayman. The attendees were described in the Guardian society pages as “200 ugly rich people and their poorer but more attractive partners,” or, as one guest more generously put it, “plutocrats and the women who love them.” A number of the partiers were so fantastically rich they could bankroll whole armies (which the birthday boy’s family, in its heyday, once did): Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska (who arrived on his £70-million yacht, the Queen K); the wealthy Egyptian Sawiris family (who have embarked on their own Montenegrin development nearby); King Leruo Molotlegi, ruler of a tiny, platinum-rich part of South Africa, who hit the dance floor in a fabulous dashiki; British politician Lord Peter Mandelson; Jimmy Choo honcho Tamara Mellon; the historian Niall Ferguson and his Dutch-Somali partner, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a feminist critic of Islam. There was a healthy smattering of European royalty, as well as members of the Guinness and Goldsmith clans.

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The Informer

Features

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How Israeli developer Gil Blutrich built his empire of vacation destinations for the yachting class in southern Ontario

Gil Blutrich

Gil Blutrich. (Image: Christopher Wahl)

Gil Blutrich believes in destiny. When he was a boy growing up in Ra’anana, a town north of Tel Aviv, he spent a lot of time fantasizing about what he wanted for his bar mitzvah. While most of the boys in his class opted for expensive stereo systems or family vacations in Europe, Blutrich chose to redecorate his room. It was the early ’70s, and photographic wallpaper murals were all the rage. Blutrich passed over the tropical beach scenes and snow-capped mountains for something different: a summer landscape with a lush green meadow and a reedy frog pond. It was, he now believes, a postcard of southern Ontario, cosmically mailed back in time by his future self. “I looked at that wallpaper every day until I was 18, and it’s only now I realize I was looking at Canada and thinking about Canada before I even knew it. If that’s not destiny, I don’t know what is.”

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