This article originally appeared in the National Post. By Adam McDowell
“It’s what’s missing right now on King West. You’ve got restaurants, pubs and a lot of lounges, but you don’t have retail,” Ms. Gupta says.
So she decided to use her influence to do something about it. Unlike most 29-year-olds, Ms. Gupta had a say in changing the fabric of the area: She is vice-president of sales, marketing and strategic development for Easton’s Group of Hotels, which owns 15 hotels under various brands. The CEO is her father, Steve Gupta, a first-time developer making a substantial debut in the condo developing game with King Blue. By virtue of its size and amenities, the two-tower, 807-unit project on a one-acre site — named for its corner of King Street West and Blue Jays Way — will further the evolution of King West into a residential area while also being an instant vertical village in its own right.
Thanks in part to the younger Gupta’s input, King Blue will add up to 35,000 square feet of retail space to the neighbourhood, which translates to a total of perhaps 25 or 30 small shops. (The podium will retain a recognizable heritage element in the form of the old Westinghouse building.)
Rather than divide the available space between one or two major anchor tenants, King Blue will afford locals and residents a diversity of shopping options.
“There’s not a lot of retail [space] now that’s available in King West … My idea was to bring urban chic retail to this area, as this is what is missing. Creating a neighbourhood whereby our owners, and tourists alike, can find anything and everything they need,” Ms. Gupta says.
And from there Mr. Gupta hopes to attract even more boutiques to the area. “In any area, somebody starts … then somebody else comes in. If we get the ball rolling, I guarantee you some other developer will get on the bandwagon and do the same thing,” he says.
Another of the Guptas’ ideas has been to seek an operator for a champagne and cigar lounge on site. And an upscale 24-hour-deli would be nice, too, Mr. Gupta says cheerily. “So 2 o’clock at night and you’re hungry and you can’t find anything? That will create a little destination.”
“This is where the hotel background comes in,” Ms. Gupta interjects. “We’re looking at all the requirements of our guests. What do we do to provide them with the best area to work, to play?”
As for amenities that are strictly for residents and their guests? For starters, interior design was handled by the award-winning firm Munge Leung. A 5,800-square-foot rooftop garden will help create a gathering place and sense of community, according to the developers. “We’ve created a firepit, we’ve created waterfalls, a bar; private areas for people to sit by the fireside,” Mr. Gupta says.
Other amenities will include a gourmet kitchen, fitness centre and possibly a daycare centre.
Suites at King Blue will range from 400 to 1,100 square feet, with a number of two- and three-bedroom units in the mix. Prices start in the mid-$200,000s. The largest units, says Mr. Gupta, “They’re very affordable, they’re not $2- to $3-million. Nothing is that high. We want to make it for more middle-income people to afford and enjoy living in this area.”
Not surprisingly, Mr. Gupta sees 25-to-40-year-old professionals as the target market. “Those are the people who will want to live in this area, enjoy the theatres, enjoy the art, the Rogers Centre and the clubs,” he says.
Theatregoers are in for a particular treat. Those who purchase a unit in King Blue will not only be within easy walking distance of Mirvish Productions’ Royal Alexandra and Princess of Wales theatres (not to mention Factory Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille and a host of other cultural venues), they’ll also share an address with a new hub for activity: a permanent home for Theatre Museum of Canada.
Canada’s only museum devoted to performing arts history has always been nomadic in nature, needing to host its exhibitions in other spaces. When King Blue is complete, the museum will occupy roughly 9,000 sq. ft. of space in the lobby and second floor of the podium portions of the development.
“It’s fabulous,” says Marlene Smith, a theatre producer and chair of the Theatre Museum’s board.
The arrangement is ultimately the result of a deal under Section 37 of the Planning Act, which allows the city to authorize buildings of greater height or density than the zoning bylaws allow if the developer agrees to create facilities that benefit the community. Mr. Gupta purchased the parcel of land from theatre impresario David Mirvish, who had already come to an understanding with the Theatre Museum.
Whatever the behind-the-scenes reasons, Ms. Smith says she likes where the museum ended up. “It’s in a very active part of town and there’s a generation that really likes that. You’re right in the centre of everything. If that’s the life you’re leading, it’s the spot to be.”