The Broadview Hotel

DesignAgency and ERA Architects nod to history and community in Toronto’s emerging East End. Photograph by Joel Levy

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A few years ago when the management of a Toronto strip club decided to remove what turned out to be a load-bearing wall, the building settled into a dangerously uninhabitable condition. Rather than take on the repairs, its owners decided to sell, and residential developer Streetcar Developments stepped in with the idea of opening a hotel. “The building originally served as a social hub, and became a gathering place for community members to connect and engage with one another,” says Les Mallins, president and founder of Streetcar Developments and the hotel’s proprietor. “From the outset, we wanted to rekindle that role— to celebrate our neighborhood, people, and culture.”

Built in 1891, the stately Romanesque structure located about 10 minutes east of downtown attracted tenants like the Royal Canadian Biking Club and Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, quickly establishing itself as a civic mainstay in the area. It eventually transformed into a railroad hotel, servicing passengers coming and going from the nearby station. By the 1970s, though, the strip club had moved in, using the upstairs rooms as a flophouse.

Referencing layered histories
The design narrative of the new hotel, the Broadview, incorporates these varied eras, offering a classic tavern that sports exposed brick walls and riotous floral patterns, a bright and buzzy cafe with a marble raw bar, a sprawling rooftop terrace, and a private dining room set inside a tower. The icing on the cake is the 58 bright guestrooms featuring custom furnishings from local firm DesignAgency, which handled the hotel’s interiors. “The restaurant references some midcentury touches, while the guestrooms have touches of Victorian, such as matching upholstery and wallcovering from the House of Hackney,” says principal Matt Davis. “And, there are a few naughty nods to the building’s last incarnation.”

First, the building had to be primed. When Toronto-based ERA Architects arrived on the scene, it was “looking a little rough,” according to heritage architect and principal Andrew Pruss. “It was pretty much gutted and it was shored up like a construction site,” he says. As ERA repaired and cleaned the exterior, they were able to get a closer look at the “pretty unique” 10-by-2-foot allegorical terra cotta panels that ornament the facade. “Rather than being refined and coming from molds, these are rough sculptures,” Pruss says.

And though the historically listed building, situated on a prominent corner in a re-emerging neighborhood, had always stood out as a stellar example of Victorian architecture, not much is known about the people who designed it. “This is a spectacular landmark but we’re still searching for the architect,” Pruss says. “I have my suspicions that it might have been Robert Ogilvie, who worked in that period and designed for the family that built the Broadview.”

Salvaging elements and creating engaging spaces
While working on the exterior, Pruss and his team removed the iron fire escape, a classic piece of urban fabric that grabbed Davis’s attention. “The owners gave us the side eye when we suggested that we might be able to use it as a sculptural element,” he says. “But it was such a dominant feature of the architecture that it seemed a shame to totally scrap it, and the artist loved the process of deconstructing it and wrapping it over the elevator core.”

Not much else from the 19th century was salvageable, although the designers did come across some original scraps of wallpaper once they began peeling back layers. They re-created its design—a classic repeat pattern in light green—in the cafe. Above the oval marble bar, they suspended a pink neon light fixture in the shape of a woman’s face. Another of Davis’s naughty nods shows up in guestrooms in the form of a brass utility rod that references a stripper pole and holds a shelf and a mirror. Outfitted in floor-to-ceiling crushed red velvet drapes, padded headboards, and bold floral accents, the rooms come equipped with wet bars and record players.

The main dining room, the Civic, uses the same crimson shade (in the banquettes) as a jumping-off point for a boudoir-like material palette that includes walnut millwork, leather seating, and flocked wallpaper. An expansive rooftop experience—with indoor/outdoor bars and lounge areas, along with the dramatic “Hogwartsian” witch’s hat event space—completes the array of public spaces that lie at the heart of the project. “Streetcar was really invested in the idea that this be a community hub for the neighborhood,” Davis says. “They wanted to help launch it into its next phase by offering the first boutique hotel to go along with all of the new galleries, shops, and food and beverage options.

 

SOURCES

who Architect: ERA Architects. Interior designer: DesignAgency. ERA Architects project team: Michael McClelland; Andrew Pruss; Annie Pelletier; Janice Quieta; Annabel Vaughan; Paul Murdoch; Elijah Sabadlan; Jasmine Frolick. DesignAgency project team: Matt Davis; Anwar Mekhayech; Jamie Phelan. Contractor: Streetcar Developments; Veisman Moro. Heritage Contractor: Phoenix Restoration; Wolfe Exteriors. Lighting: Marcel Dion Lighting Design. Engineering: Atkins + Van Groll (structural); Novatrend Engineering Group (MEP). Kitchen: Anjinnov Management. Acoustician: J.E. Coulter Associates.
what Wallcoverings: Charles Rupert Designs; Rollout; House of Hackney; Clayworks. Flooring: Kaswell. Interior lighting: Anony; Viso; Erik Peterson. Doors: Global Architectural Metals & Solar Innovations. Architectural glass/glazing: Global Architectural Metals. Window treatments: Ridley Windows & Doors (Heritage Windows). Seating: Superior Seating Hospitality; TON. Upholstery: House of Hackney; Maharam; CTL Leather; Sunbrella;
P/Kaufmann; Fil Doux; Cortina Leathers; CTL Leather. Tables: Crow-Works; ISA; Coolican & Co.; Elte; Saint-Damase Hotel Furniture; Caesarstone.

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