park-hyatt-application Photo: The south hotel building of the Park Hyatt Toronto. Photo: Sanjay Chauhan

Hotel living strike your fancy?

A posh high-rise Toronto hotel once favoured by Canada’s literati may be renovated to include scores of rental apartments, new retail and upgraded amenities, according to the City’s planning department (UPDATE August 11th: read the latest details on the development application here).

The City of Toronto received a site plan approval application on August 2nd for a proposed overhaul of the two-tower Park Hyatt Toronto at 4 Avenue Road in upscale Yorkville, its online development applications database shows.

The site, located on the northwest corner of Bloor Street and Avenue Road, encompasses a Depression-era Art Deco building, known for its 18th-floor rooftop lounge, and more recent tower dating back to 1956. A lobby, also a later addition, spans the two structures.

Planning firm Bousfields Inc. submitted the application to the City on behalf of international developer and property manager Oxford Properties, Barry Brooks, the senior planner assigned to the file, tells BuzzBuzzNews.

In late 2014, a Hyatt affiliate company sold the hotel to Oxford Properties for $90 million in US funds, said a news release at the time. The release outlines Oxford Properties’ plans to spend $25 million more on the structure, previously known as the Park Plaza Hotel, over five years.

Among the proposals outlined in the new application is a plan to convert hotel suites and office space into a total of 65 rental apartment units in Park Hyatt Toronto’s hulking south tower, constructed between 1928 and 1935.

The idea of a Park Hyatt rental conversion was explored last year in a development challenge held by the Toronto chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association (NAIOP).

Oxford Properties tells BuzzBuzzNews that it let competitors use the Park Hyatt as a case study.

The winning submission, which included renderings (see below), detailed plans for the addition of “113 condominium-style apartment rental units” to the hotel, among other updates, many of which echo the application the city is currently reviewing.

park-hyatt-apartment-lobby Image: A rendering from the winning 2015 NAIOP Design Challenge submission which showed what a Park Hyatt rental conversion could look like.

As per the current application, there would be 29 one-bedroom-plus-dens averaging 1,033 square feet and 36 two-bedroom-plus-den apartments to an average of 1,356 square feet in the stone-fronted south tower.

The tower’s commercial element fronting Bloor would be reduced to two storeys from its current three, and the south and east facades would be repaired.

Oxford Properties also intends to revamp the hotel’s top floor lounge, meeting area and outside patio, Brooks tells BuzzBuzzNews. “It was renovated in 1992. As a result it was reduced in size, but it’s going to be enlarged and refurbished,” says Brooks, who calls the rooftop lounge “kind of historic.”

The iconic lounge is described in Margaret Atwood’s novels The Edible Woman and Cat’s Eye and in more recent years the hotel has continued to host Toronto International Film Festival parties, drawing the likes of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt at least once for negronis.

The north tower, built in 1955 and upgraded in the late-’90s, will continue to operate as a hotel with retail space. A total of 220 hotel rooms with a “higher suite mix” are laid out in the proposal, says Brooks, alongside a new lobby, meeting rooms and fitness facilities. “The facade of the lower two levels of the tower will be reclad on the east side,” he adds.

“The connecting link will be demolished,” says Brooks, outlining plans for a new one featuring a restaurant, ballroom and more loading room.

park-hyatt-apartment Image: A rendering from the winning 2015 NAIOP Design Challenge submission which showed what a Park Hyatt rental conversion could look like.

The City will review the application for six to eight weeks, says Brooks. “Then we’ll make a determination whether this will be a rezoning or committee of adjustment. We have to see how many [zoning] variances there are,” the senior planner explains.

Depending on the number of variances (exceptions to land-use restrictions for the site an application requires) the site either needs to be rezoned altogether or, if the changes can be approved via the committee of adjustment, which considers minor variances.

The original southern wing of the Park Hyatt Toronto is a listed — but not designated — heritage building, according to a 2005 report from the City of Toronto’s Heritage Preservation Services.

Because of this, Brooks says changes to the south building’s facade may “necessitate a report to the heritage and preservation board.”

“‘Listing’ a property on the Heritage Register allows Heritage Preservation Services to review development and building applications affecting those properties,” whereas designation “confers a legal status… and gives City council the legal authority to refuse an application that will adversely affect a property’s heritage attributes,” according to the City.

BuzzBuzzNews requested any images related to the application from Oxford Properties, which has “nothing to announce at this time,” a spokesperson said.

A previous version of this story misidentified the renderings as part of an earlier proposal. Instead, they are part of a winning NAIOP development challenge submission. Oxford Properties says it let competitors use the Park Hyatt for a case study. 

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