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East York people, places, events & insights

Renovated and reimagined Broadview Hotel changes east TO’s psychological landscape

Drone shot of Broadview Hotel -INSTAGRAM

Drone shot of Broadview Hotel -INSTAGRAM

\ By Janet Sherbanowski \

From 1860, during the four-decades leading up to the turn of the 20th century, Toronto took her first steps towards becoming the service and financial centre of Canada.  Insurance, manufacturing and banking industries were in their infancy.  The Legislature of Ontario was building a new home and the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture would become an integral part of Toronto’s architectural landscape.

The Gladstone Hotel (1889), The Ontario Legislative Building (1893), and The Broadview Hotel (Dingman Hall, 1893), were built by local architects to pay homage to Richardson’s unique style, itself modelling our blend of Torontonian, stone-faced independence with romantic peaks, cupolas, cornices, windows and heavily stoic features.  Bookending Queen Street in the west and east ends, The Gladstone and The Broadview hotels still stand as monuments to the early days in Toronto’s growth.

Broadview Hotel prior to renovation

Broadview Hotel prior to renovation

The re-opening of The Broadview Hotel this month finally heralds the coming of the gentrification of our east-end of Toronto.  We have been envying the trendy eateries, boutique hotels and up-scale nightlife of Toronto’s west for years.  Have we arrived?

It certainly felt that way when I visited pre-opening in July.  Lots of variety in the room.  Not your usual Saturday night young crowd of trendies.  Locals, visitors, old, young, mixed couples and lots of talk going on.  It was and will be a welcoming place for everyone.  Very easy to be there.

Walking into the main lobby leading to the ground floor bar and lifts (elevators is too modern a term for them!) to the rooms and patio, you can see the affection for history and alternative sourced materials used to create a look of modernity with many nods to conserving the cultural significance of the hotel.  After all, the renovation was awarded a Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation.

As any of us who live in the east end know, this hotel has a shady past.  It took a few years to redevelop Jilly’s strip club and its rooming house tenants into a 58-room boutique hotel with a ground-floor restaurant to serve steaks, chops, whole roasted birds, and tartare’s.  The café/bar is high-ceilinged and welcoming, a new partially glassed-in atrium is combined with the rooftop patio that serves a lovely foie gras (must admit I ate the entire thing, served with toast in an old-fashioned flip-topped canning jar) as well as a fully stocked and busy bar.

West view from Broadview Hotel rooftop. -STREETCAR DEVELOPMENTS

West view from Broadview Hotel rooftop. -STREETCAR DEVELOPMENTS

Looking out from the terrace, with real room to walk, talk, drink and eat, even if there is a line-up to get in, you can’t help but be impressed by the bountiful cranes dangling in a sea of stars and twinkling building lights in the Western sky.  Looking eastward, we have our green, tree-lined East York neighbourhoods, dotted with a few tall buildings but leaving us lots of room to grow and catch-up to our cultural and entertainment counterparts in the west.

Streetcar Developments, founded in 2002 by president Les Mallins, boasts a U of T educated VP of Architecture, Jeff Schnitter —whose motto is complimenting neighbourhoods by “re-thinking” the existing history of communities.  Streetcar is bringing sexy to our eastern avenues and sprucing up some of the long neglected industrial buildings along our main arteries.

The Carlaw for instance, has made the once painfully drab intersections of Carlaw and Dundas into a special treat for those avoiding the Gardiner and Lakeshore on their daily commute to downtown.  The condo-living spaces are uniquely urban-trendy without the total center-of-the-city drama.

West view from Broadview Hotel rooftop. -STREETCAR DEVELOPMENTS

West view from Broadview Hotel rooftop. -STREETCAR DEVELOPMENTS

Their next project, Riverside Square on Queen, brings even more up-scale living space east of the Don.

Working in Leslieville, Riverdale and other areas of Toronto with such attention to community, culture and class, we can only hope that other developers are tempted to emulate Streetcar and look eastward (with a touch of north) for their next gentle upgrades to Toronto neighbourhoods.

Changes to official plans in the next few years should see us getting more of the development money flowing through Hogtown’s west, far north and centre.  Archie Dingman, who built the Broadview, was the financial backer for Alberta’s first oil well, the Dingman No. 1 in 1914, which launched Canada’s oil boom.  Perhaps the emergence of The Broadview from its long-dusty cocoon as this elegant butterfly can usher in the placement of those beautiful cranes in the night sky of East York.

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