Toronto King Street West Condos
King West Village by Payton Chung
I imagine Spiderman web-swinging along Toronto's King Street West district where powerful, trend-setting mountains of glistening gold, semi-precious stone, dark steel and tinted glass form an urban canyon in this northern El Dorado. When he finished, the hip Peter Parker - if he had enough money in his pocket - would have plenty to do in this neighborhood.
Billed as the entertainment district, King St. W. is the nucleus for a clustering of major live theatres (Royal Alexandra, Princess of Wales, Elgin & Wintergarden, Second City, Canon), classical concert spaces (Roy Thomson and Massey halls), the city's premier arenas (Rogers, Air Canada), CN Tower, CBC HQ, lakeside walkways and attractions including ferry boats to Toronto's offshore islands.
But this strip of the downtown core is also literally towering with gold.
Walking King St. E. towards the city's east-west divide at Yonge Street, Toronto's architectural history dangles its naked legs seductively from the multitude of styles that entice me as I walk into the beating, breathing breast of the city.
Doormen at the 1903 King Edward Hotel busy themselves as I walk by. The stateliness of her Romanesque Revival beckons me and I peer inside at her Edwardian styled lobby of exotic woods, marble pillars and fleshy greenery.
Where King St. W. begins, the alluring purr of hundreds of billions of dollars flashing by and wiggling to the sky is audible. Canada's six major banks have enthroned themselves on this short stretch of King since the early days. Their decorative deco, modernist black and burnished red granite shoulders still hold up the skyline, the billions in gold, currency and bonds, are still locked in enormous steel vaults below. But now, one of their own is a hotel condo.
In 1914, One King West was the capitol of the Dominion Bank (now part of Toronto Dominion - TD Bank). Crowds gawked as a team of horses hauled its 40-ton vault door to the site.
Today, its original Art Nouveau splendor, gold leaf paintings, horsehair-stuffed leather chairs and even its caged vault - now a private dining room and bar - are part of this refurbished testament to conservative Canadian money management in the new gilded age.
John Panagakos has lived - part-time living as he and others call it - at One King for two years. "I live north of the city with my kids. This is my cottage; my cottage on the Wall Street of Toronto. This building is a jewel for people who work in the financial district."
The city's first condo-hotel, John says it's also the tallest residence at 52-storeys. Because it's a hotel and condo, John enjoys the "Cheers" of having everyone know his name. The place has "a special vibe" of ownership and rental guests, he says. Indeed, the business types who use One King as an inner city launching pad, front desk staff, chauffeurs, bartenders, waiters and convention delegates all create a chaos theory community on the main floors.
Banks, banks and more banks spring up like exotic mushrooms. There's the art deco skyscraper of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Mies Van Der Rohe's Batmobile black, Bauhaus obelisks for the TD bank. Scotiabank blended its 1950s deco tower with a 68-storey, girder-front modernist plaza slick with red Napoleon granite. But the greatest spectacle is the Royal Bank Plaza's twin triangular towers of 14,000 windows with 2,500 ounces of 24-carat gold baked in - to cut heating bills through insulation. Go green with gold.
On King W, even the street-level entrance to the University Ave. subway line is fashionable enough for Paris.
West of University Ave., Barron's gives way to Good Life and an unimaginable plethora of flashy and folksy restaurants and night clubs with names like Rain, Schmooze, Grass, Kit Kat, Fred's Not Here and Philthy McNasty sprout from every available crevice.
The Rosemont Residence at 50 John Street, south of King displays a patchwork of colorful granite and funnel-shaped lamps on its lobby walls. A side lobby features a glass-topped table made from an antique wooden door and stuffed leather chairs decorated with small, needle work pillows. Peter and Marjorie Murphy are disappointed in The Rosemont because "it's too much like a hotel. The staff changes a lot, so no one knows your name or recognizes you at the door."
The "apartments are great though," Marjorie adds. "I work across the street. I have nearby day care and a dentist. It's like a little village here."
Gordon, the Rosemont's cheerful British security man is new but says "if I could afford it, I'd live here."
He lets me ride the elevator to the Penthouse and the rooftop Jacuzzi, BBQ, party area with its spectacular view of the downtown core and nearby CN Tower.
The luxurious Soho condel (condo-hotel) at 318 Wellington Street W. has two entrances, one for the hotel the other for the residence.
A Dale Chihuly glass sculpture suspended in a glass canopy tops the hotel lobby entrance, while the nearby condo front is a quiet, empty square with all the hum of an office building on Sunday. But Gord Scott, the condo's concierge says this place is an in-city rest stop for sports stars and celebs like J Lo and 50 Cent.
"It's a young building. I'm probably the oldest one here," says the 50-ish Gord. "There's lawyers, night club owners and, oh yeah, the lovely women. The women in this building average a 9.5. Out there too," he says, pointing to the street.
With gourmet diners, a 4,000 sq. ft, three storey penthouse and other facilities at the hotel, it's not surprising the condo side has no party room.
"The hotel has a party room."
Resident Nona Alexander is a student who is just finishing her engineering degree. She loves the convenience of having everything so close - shopping, entertainment, work and a great gym she hasn't had time to use.
250/270 Wellington Street greets me with a wide open, high ceiling and the swimming pool scent of chlorinated water. Crested skylights look down on a working fountain in a small pool and two, square benches with glassed-in displays of raked sand and seashells. A large leather Roman couch graces one side of the lobby and hallways branch off to each address.
"Nobody here cooks, that's one thing," Andrew, the concierge, says, "and there's no cheap food around here. I'm always letting in delivery guys."
Resident Rick, who works in IT, finds this place close to work but snobby.
Wendy, another resident about to start her downtown jog, says living here among the young and chic is like "Sex and the City."
Dominating the entrance to the Hudson at 438 King W, is a neck-craning wall of black and white celebrity photos from the 1950s and '60s including The Rolling Stones, The Who, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Brigitte Bardot.
"A lot of people walk in here thinking we're an art gallery," Yosan, the Hudson's front man says. But this is an artsy residence, right down to the suites - all named for jazz greats like Sarah Vaughn and Peggy Lee.
Teresa, a teacher who lives here says it's the friendliest place she's ever lived.
"The lobby is like a big living room. On the weekend, this place is like "Sex and the City." When there's a party in the party room the door is open," she says. "The nearby clubs are pick-up places for people in this building."
This area is booming with cranes and plans to unpave every parking lot and turn it into a new condo paradise.