Over the next couple of years, this city will get five new luxury hotels. It starts with the Thompson, which opens its high-concept doors this month and promises to be ground zero for the beautiful people
If you build it: the Thompson Toronto, on Wellington West, is the first international arm of the New York–based brand (Illustration: Kagan McLeod)
Lately, King West is an urban cloud nine: designer condos, old brick studio spaces, fantastic carpaccio. Only 15 years ago, no one had much reason to venture down here—not for work, not to live, not for a dining scene, because there wasn’t one. There were no ad agencies, no Susur Lee joints, no Spoke Club and certainly no boutique hotels. But now the dozen or so blocks bounded by Spadina and Bathurst, from Adelaide down to Wellington, are a humming, self-sustaining ecosystem—a model of how to retrofit a vintage downtown neighbourhood.
Real estate agents call this part of town King West Village, a handle the locals find too artificial to pass their lips, especially considering the place isn’t yet fully formed. At every turn, there’s a construction site, or a gaping hole in the ground, or a lot with a target on its back, almost all of them bearing the same signage: an artful graphic in lower case letters saying “freed.” It’s not an existentialist statement; “Freed” stands for Peter Freed, the Forest Hill–bred developer who has nine projects on the go in the area. No one has been a bigger catalyst of the evolution of King West, or capitalized on it more, than Freed. His real estate portfolio, mainly condos, is worth $1 billion, and much of it is geared to a highly specific breed: a 35-ish, design-obsessed demographic that wears Japanese denim, listens to Phoenix, works in advertising or banking or consults in high tech, travels often and widely, and stays at properties designed by Ian Schrager, the Manhattan entrepreneur often credited with founding the boutique hotel genre. In King West, Freed has prepared a landing strip for these hipster high flyers (and those who aspire to become them). They’re not rich, necessarily. Their ambition is to be tastefully in the know.
For them, Freed has invested in a crowning achievement, a gleefully anticipated light box on Wellington: the 102-room Thompson Toronto, which is scheduled to open its high-concept doors this month.
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