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Easton’s Group to build first hotel in Toronto’s Distillery District

Easton’s Group of Hotels will build Canada’s first Curio by Hilton in the last remaining heritage...

IMAGE: Easton's Group plans to build a Curio by Hilton in Toronto's Distillery District. (The Gupta Group)

Easton’s Group plans to build a Curio by Hilton hotel in Toronto’s Distillery District. (The Gupta Group)

Easton’s Group of Hotels will build Canada’s first Curio by Hilton in the last remaining heritage building to be repurposed in Toronto’s The Distillery Historic District.

The building was purchased by Easton’s Group in the summer of 2018 for $28 million from Guelph-based Fusion Homes.

Steve Gupta, founder and chairman of Easton’s Group parent company The Gupta Group, told RENX he had been looking for a site in the area for a decade because there are no hotels within a kilometre of the Distillery District, which is located on the southeastern edge of the city’s downtown.

The structure was zoned for an 11-storey residential building but Easton’s Group applied for new zoning, which it received last year. Some conditions still have to be met to receive full approval, which is expected this summer. The hotel is expected to take three years to complete.

“There have been numerous attempts to repurpose this building that haven’t been successful,” Easton’s Group executive director of development and planning Mario Angelucci told RENX. “Bringing a hotel, which is much needed, to this area will be a huge boon for the city and the area.”

Curio by Hilton

Easton’s Group’s hotels are located primarily in Ontario, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area, and include such brands as Marriott and Holiday Inn.

Gupta said he has a good relationship with Hilton’s top executives, and both parties agree Curio is the right brand for this project. One reason is that Easton’s Group won’t need to adhere to strict standards for furniture and other elements which some brands require.

“We were looking for a full-service lifestyle brand with the proper scale for this area,” said Gupta. “With this one we have the flexibility to create our own niche for the Distillery District and create a brand within a brand and rooms and furnishings that are unique for the site.”

The 31-storey, 288,000-square-foot, 392-guest-room hotel at 60 Mill St. will preserve the 132-year-old building’s exteriors as the base three floors. Some of the building’s public elements will reflect its history.

While the existing building is technically six storeys, it has no floors because it was designed to store up to 15,000 barrels of alcohol on wooden racks for the Distillery District’s large-scale liquor manufacturer. Those operations ceased in 1990.

The racks form the middle of the building and are currently supporting it, so removing them will pose unique architectural, mechanical and structural challenges.

“That’s probably one of the reasons why a lot of other proposals for the site could not advance,” said Angelucci.

The six storeys will be converted to three levels in order to maintain the building’s long windows, expose its original heavy brickwork and give visitors a glimpse into the past.

The hotel’s design team includes IBI Group, ERA Architects and Studio Munge.

Hotel amenities and impact

The hotel’s amenities will include:

– ballrooms and conference spaces;

– a spa and gym;

– a rooftop bar, restaurant and outdoor patio with views of Lake Ontario and the Distillery District that, currently, are available only to on-site condominium residents;

– a main-floor lobby, lounge and restaurant;

– five underground levels, including four reserved for parking; and

– a loading dock with a turning table inside the building so trucks can drive in, turn 180 degrees, unload and drive out without needing to reverse.

“The Distillery District attracts a lot of people during the year to come and visit the area, and this hotel will become a destination for tourism,” said Gupta.

“It will also cater to the businesses in the East End, including the Port Lands studios. There’s a massive film business happening over there and they have to go downtown, but they will be very close to us.”

A stop for Toronto’s proposed new subway extension is a six-minute walk from the site, Gupta added.

Other Easton’s Group developments

City centre hotels in major markets have been hit hard by COVID-19, but Gupta is optimistic business will return to pre-pandemic levels of occupancy and profitability.

Easton’s Group has three hotel projects at various stages in the GTA, with more on the way that it hasn’t yet announced.

“We like to keep busy and contribute to the economies of Toronto, Ontario and Canada,” said Gupta. “We believe in this country and believe there’s tremendous potential.”

A 184-room Canopy by Hilton hotel, Canada’s first, will occupy the first 10 floors of a 55-storey, 509-unit condominium called The Rosedale on Bloor at 387 Bloor St. E. Construction of The Gupta Group development is up to the 48th floor.

“It’s a very high-end lifestyle (hotel) brand that will hopefully open in September of this year,” said Gupta.

Easton’s Group is hoping to start construction on a Hilton Garden Inn and a Hampton Inn in the same seven-storey building at 616 Applewood Cres. in Vaughan in the next two to three months.

They’ll have a combined 204 rooms. The company already owns two nearby hotels: a Springhill Suites by Marriott and a Homewood Suites by Hilton.

Easton’s Group has applied to develop three residential towers at 7028 Yonge St., at Steeles Avenue in Thornhill, which would include 1,902 residential units, a 200-room hotel and retail space in a seven-storey podium.

A hearing is scheduled for May and Gupta is hoping to get closer to full approval to start construction this year.

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