April 2016

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 70 of 95

A PR IL 2016 | 71 The Omni King Edward Hotel Renovation PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OMNI HOTELS & RESORTS The Omni King Edward Hotel Renovation by YVAN MARSTON R evitalizing a 112-year-old hotel is a balancing act. On the one hand there's a history to respect and a narrative to keep alive. But hotels are rated on their esthetic. And well-travelled guests often seek a contemporary feel – even in a historical building. Change came to the King Edward after some years of neglect. Under Omni Hotels & Resorts' new ownership it was given the opportunity to reclaim its luxury standing. Designer Robynne Moncur from Moncur Design Associates Inc. says her approach to these old- verses-new hospitality projects is to enhance the new without ignoring the past. Consider her reimagining of the wood-panelled Consort Bar. Gone are the built-in bookshelves and golden yellow seating, replaced by a more contemporary palette with slate grey wing backs and low-slung purple seating in a room dominated by a massive 12-foot-high portrait of Alexandra of Denmark, King Edward's consort. The portrait, made of three large pieces of printed vinyl affixed directly to the wall and surrounded by a contemporary wood frame, is a playful nod to grandeur. It adds character to the comfortable parlour-like atmosphere. "It hasn't changed to the point where those who are familiar with [the Consort bar] would no longer be comfortable. In fact, I don't think it has changed as much as it has been added to," Moncur says. Mixing strong elements with subtle flourishes of colour and texture serves to acknowledge the space's historical character without making it feel like a museum, explains Moncur. "People stay in these turn-of-the- century buildings because they like that sense of history. The challenge is to maintain the history. Celebrate it. But still provide the look and feel that the modern business and leisure traveller is looking for," she says. The designer's revitalized vision for Toronto's first luxury hotel extends well beyond this lobby bar and into every facet from the ballrooms, meeting facilities and updated lobby to the 301 guest rooms. The Omni King Edward Hotel officially re-opened in September 2015 after a $40-million restoration that left few surfaces untouched by paint, polish and other more extensive forms of refurbishment. The lobby's rotunda maintains its regal sensibilities not only from its refinished, honey-hued wood panelling, highly polished marble floors and faux-finished marble columns, but also from its modern furnishings. A large, four-sided banquet forms the centrepiece of the room. Its high back and brass tack detail gives it the character of a throne but for the fact that each bench serves to form intimate seating areas. Modern couches and armchairs clad in muted greys attend the rest of the space as a counterpoint to the banquet's rich purple. Standing sentinel over the scene are four 10-foot-tall, black resin chess pieces in each corner of the lobby's rotunda space – another playful reminder of the hotel's theme. The King Edward was the first grand hotel to open in Toronto, says ERA Architects' Ben Huntley. "The neoclassical grandeur of the public spaces in the original building, like the lobby rotunda, the sovereign ballroom and the vanity fair ballroom, is unmatched in the city," he says. And there's little of it in Toronto because architectural tastes changed soon after its 1903 opening, says Huntley adding that the economics of construction had changed and buildings like the King Edward have not been built since. Rooms like the crystal ballroom on the 17th and 18th floors – which were not part of this restoration - have become legendary lost spaces made available for infrequent architectural tours but otherwise hidden from the public. ERA Architects' contribution on the project went into ensuring that the renovation work was successful in updating the decor and functionality of the building without detracting from or damaging its impressive heritage attributes, says Huntley. The work, undertaken by Shurway Contracting, a group known for its hospitality industry projects, saw no shortage of small complications as it refinished almost every room in the 600,000-square-foot building. This included the Vanity Fair and Sovereign ballrooms, over a dozen meeting rooms, the Victoria café and the lobby. Perhaps the most complicated logistic was that of allowing the hotel to continue operating throughout the 20-month renovation. "When we started the renovations we were ranked 13th on Tripadvisor and throughout the process we remained at 13," says the hotel's general manager Christophe Le Chatton, adding that it is now ranked 9th in Toronto. Undoubtedly the renovation work had an impact on the guest experience, says Le Chatton. But he adds that the hotel worked hard to remain transparent and open about the renovation, and throughout, guests showed understanding. Of course, careful scheduling certainly helped. Shurway undertook its room renovations ensuring there were vacant floors acting as buffers between the work zones and the occupied floors. And when the main lobby was enclosed in construction hording for nine weeks, the hotel fashioned a small lobby from its east entrance. With limited rooms and a cozy foyer, Le Chatton says the guest experience at that time was perhaps more in line with that of a boutique hotel. Work on the guest rooms proceeded at a regimented pace, explains Rob Aitken, Shurway's project manager on the job. From a construction standpoint, it was a normal paint-vinyl-carpet job, he says, but historic buildings have a way of yielding surprises. Before doing the finishing work in each room, Shurway had to complete the replacement of the plumbing risers, and the updating of the fire suppression system – with the consulting help of Crossey Engineering. Work on the rooms then began in the spring of 2014. The work itself was not complicated, says Aitken, but the scheduling of it could be. He says this type of project moves through a hotel like a train where the first car is demolition, the next is plumbing, followed by electrical, drywall and painting. "Each trade depends on the trade ahead. Using the right trades and ones we know well is important, as is on-site supervision that knows how to keep everything going," says Aitken, whose crews peaked with 80 trades on site. Furnishings figure prominently in the revitalized look of the hotel, but as with all aspects of the renovation, doing the work without being disruptive was key. MoveLine Hospitality handled the warehousing, delivery and installation of the furniture. There were some large and awkward pieces, like the front area banquette seating that had multiple sections requiring assembly, recalls MoveLine CEO Dan Rebernik, but the main challenge was around scheduling the deliveries in a way that wouldn't disturb the hotel. "The chess pieces," he adds, "were a great addition and unique, but moving them was challenging." Indeed, the entire project could be likened to a chess game as crews shifted from one area to the next, trying to stay a few moves ahead in anticipation of the hotel's needs. "What made this a success was that the communication between all the team members really worked," says Aitken, explaining that Omni Hotels & Resorts was quick to make decisions, the designer was able to react quickly to any challenges and the architects and engineers were available on site as needed. "Without that, we couldn't have completed all those rooms in 14 months." A LOCATION 37 King Street East, Toronto, Ontario OWNER Omni Hotels & Resorts HERITAGE ARCHITECT ERA Architects GENERAL CONTRACTORS Shurway Contracting Ltd. (interior renovations) Historic Restoration Inc. (exterior renovations) STRUCTURAL CONSULTANTS Engineering Link Inc. Blackwell Structural Engineers (interior renovations) Mott MacDonald (exterior renovations) MECHANICAL/ELECTRICAL CONSULTANT Crossey Engineering Ltd. INTERIOR DESIGNER Moncur Design Associates Inc. FF&E INSTALLATION & WAREHOUSING MoveLine Hospitality TOTAL SIZE 600,000 square feet TOTAL COST $40 million 8:41 AM 2:28 PM

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Award - April 2016