Posted by: Daryl & Wendy Ashby | June 22, 2010

Kings & Commoners

The year was 1969. John Lennon and Yoko Ono opted to Give Peace A Chance and recorded the hit the same day they arrived at Le Méridien King Edward Hotel.

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Perhaps it was meant to be sardonic that the famous couple would begin their “bed-in” at a landmark hotel luxurious enough for the Queen. But whatever the reason, their stay was one in a series of scandalous soirées that brought the nicknamed King Eddy fame and secured a place in Toronto history.

Now with the launch of the King Edward Private Residences, located on the south side of King Street East at Victoria Street, a piece of history can be yours. Residents can choose from 145 luxury condos from 500 to 2,000 square feet, with prices beginning in the low $400,000s.

The smaller condos will likely be used as a pied-à-terre or secondary residences for numerous business people who live elsewhere on the weekends, but work in the heart of the city.

“We have hotel clients who stay here approximately 100 days a year, and so, this sort of condo would be perfect for them — and any loyal hotel clients will, of course, get first choice of suite.”

Up until this point, the space now designated for these condos has been waiting — with its ghosts. The third, fourth and fifth floors once used for commercial fashion space (as well as a number of other fascinating historical nooks within the hotel) have remained vacant for more than a decade.

“The previous hotel owners were going to transform these floors into large hotel suites, but when the recession hit, they realized there just wasn’t a market for that type of suite any more.”

Residences were the natural solution to the enormous potential of the hotel — a place where past guests will be honoured for their participation in the larger King Eddy narrative. For instance, the Vice Regal Suite where Elizabeth Taylor (then married to Eddie Fisher) and Richard Burton consummated their adulterous passion in 1964 will be transformed into a residence — the newly named Elizabeth Taylor suite.

Renovation of the residences — and the hotel’s public spaces — will begin soon. While the private residences are not yet under construction, Anwar Mekhayech of The Design Agency has created exceptional renderings for buyers. It’s his vision of the interior spaces that captures the “transitional” aesthetic (transitional being the operative word tossed about by collaborating owners and design teams).

What exactly does “transitional” mean? “It’s being respectful of the King Eddy’s historical architecture, while integrating a certain level of modernity to the environment.” To accomplish this, the ornate pieces of the hotel’s structure will remain mostly untouched — panelled doors, antique crown mouldings, deep baseboards, 9.6-foot ceilings as well as the lobby’s limestone flooring, marbled pillars and carved trim surrounding the balconies overlooking the main-floor lobby.

“We definitely want to bring sexiness to the lobby, by energizing it with a restaurant and bar, modern furnishings and just generally more activity. Remember, this space will be the entrance way to people’s homes.” To revitalize the lobby, Mr. Mekhayech hopes to turn the former “palace hotel” into a piece of living history — one in which new residents feel comfortable enough to work and play. Like similar venues, such as the Savoy in London, the Ritz in Paris, and the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, Mr. Lewis and Mr. Mekhayech both aspire to preserve history while inspiring the future.

Where once “unescorted” women were accommodated with a separate entrance, elevator, parlour and reception room to avoid wayward advances from men, now single women are invited to purchase their own condo.

In addition to the suites, The Design Agency will be updating Le Fitness, a 1,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art fitness centre. “We’ll be expanding and modernizing this space,” Mr. Mekhayech says, “To maximize light and to provide more amenities.” Down the hall, the King Eddy’s spa will be gutted for a $1-million renovation. “The spa will be elegant, understated, yet traditional. We have second-and third-generation customers coming here — so it’s important to keep the thread between the past and the present.”

Le Royal Club will also be completely transformed during the renovation. The space currently operates as a private business centre for the higher- paying hotel guest. But after its reconstruction, the space will be open to all residents for social or business functions — replete with a private screening room.

The new King Eddy is not meant to be exclusive. “Our building has a story and anyone can be a part of it. Almost every Torontonian already has some memory of this place. It’s not a new construction and we hope that will be attractive to buyers as well.” Residences officially go on sale June 12 with a completion date set for summer 2012.

“Someone from London, England, could not just rush in and know what this building needs — because they would not know what it has already been. We truly respect the history here simply by virtue of the fact that we are local citizens.”

Because of this, the King Eddy aspires to be more than just a residence, a hotel or both — it aspires to be a venue — one in which every Torontonian can participate, whether that means sipping a dirty martini in the lobby bar for an hour or sleeping over for the next 20 to 30 years.

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