The 18th story rooftop lounge where Mordecai Richler (and more than one of his literary surrogates) knocked back successions of scotch isn't going anywhere. According to updated documents released via the City's Development Applications site, Toronto's Park Hyatt Hotel is subject to a new application to renovate and repurpose the site into a mixed-use complex, leaving the architectural character—and the iconic lounge—of the original hotel building intact.
Formerly known as the Park Plaza Hotel, the Yorkville property, once considered among the most prestigious hotels in the city, was sold to the Hyatt Chain in 1999 following a prolonged period of financial turbulence. A decade and a half later, the 346-room hotel was sold to Oxford Properties for $90 million (in 2014 dollars). Shortly thereafter, a concept design to repurpose the Avenue and Bloor property—which consists of two towers linked via a two-storey podium structure—was presented at the NAIOP Development Challenge.
Like Oxford's current proposal, the NAIOP design concept envisioned a conversion of the hotel into a mixed-use complex featuring rental housing and hotel uses. With a significantly expanded podium structure linking the two towers, the proposal introduced a new, unified architectural language to link the lower levels (above). A modern row of archways would have connected the three buildings, yoking together the various architectural typologies above.
Designed by KPMB Architects—with heritage restoration headed by ERA Architects—Oxford's current plan proposes a generally similar reinvention of the hotel property's three buildings. Although the aesthetic direction and heritage strategy has changed, the planned programming is mostly in keeping with the previous concept. The historic south tower will become a residential rental property, while the north tower will continue to be used as a hotel, and the linking podium will be replaced by a new structure to connect the two towers.
Notably, the landmark South Tower—completed between 1928 and 1936—is still set to be repurposed as a 65-unit luxury rental apartment building. Currently occupied by a mix of hotel rooms and office office space alongside ground floor retail, most of the heritage-listed building will be given over to high-end rental suites. While the tower's prominent south and east elevations will be extensively renovated, the architectural character will be largely maintained, despite the alteration of some aesthetic details (below). Meanwhile, the north elevation—which, like the unadorned west frontage, is currently mostly blank—will house a new external elevator core.
Along the tower's lower levels, retail space will also be expanded, with the lower three levels repurposed into "two levels of retail with refreshed facades," recent submission documents note. Topping the landmark tower, a renovated rooftop lounge will remain a prominent presence, with the rooftop terrace—shrunk to its current size during a 1992 renovation—set to be expanded. Known as a hub for the CanLit elite in the 60s and 70s, the lounge has been described in the work of writers including Margaret Atwood and Morley Callahan.
Compared to the NAIOP concept design, the new plan shows greater deference to the South Tower's existing architectural context at grade. Eschewing the architectural homogeneity of the earlier concept, the lower levels of the South Tower will retain their existing character, while an updated aesthetic will be introduced to the podium building and the North Tower.
Up Avenue Road, the mid-century 14-storey North Tower will continue to be used as a hotel following extensive renovations. Completed in 1956, the North Tower currently houses 220 hotel rooms, which will be renovated to a "4-5 star hotel standard with a higher suite mix" from the fourth floor up. Joining a refreshed lobby and new event facilities on the 2nd floor, the ground level restaurant space will also be renovated.
Linking the two high-rises, the two-storey podium building will be demolished and replaced with a slightly more urban structure. Currently set back from the street to allow a generous vehicular forecourt, the low-rise structure will contribute to a new streetwall, with the new street level porte-cochère topped by a pedestrian passageway connecting the two towers. The podium will also feature a new hotel restaurant and a new ballroom, alongside a modernized loading facility.
Overall, the site's GFA will increase modestly following the redevelopment. As cited in the submission documents, "the renovated complex will contain a total of 38,739 square metres of gross floor area," representing an increase of 1,395 square metres. "Of this total GFA, 27,725 square metres will be non-residential GFA (4,948 square metres retail, 21,996 square metres hotel and 781 square metres “other”) and 11,014 square metres will be residential GFA," the submission notes. The project would result in a new density of 7.7 times the lot area, a slightly increase over the existing density of 7.4.
We will keep you updated as more information about the project becomes available, and the proposal begins to make its way though the City's planning process. In the meantime, more information is available in our dataBase file for the project, linked below. Want to share your thoughts? Leave a message in the space provided on this page, or join the ongoing conversation in our associated Forum thread.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was amended to reflect the fact that the earlier design was not an Oxford Proposal, as previously stated. The design was created as part of the NAIOP Development Challenge; a case competition for emerging real estate professionals. Oxford allowed NAIOP the opportunity to use the Park Hyatt as the case study for the plan.
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