Toronto’s raffish hub gets posh hotels, grub

Toronto Int'l Film Festival 2012

The Toronto Intl. Film Festival hub lies in the center of what was a bustling industrial and garment manufacturing district in the early 20th century. Several decades of suburban sprawl and various economic downturns later, the area emerged as a nightlife destination — its vintage warehouse cache making it one of North America’s most concentrated club zones — and today is also home to a dense array of film, broadcast and new-media companies, plus several major performing arts venues.

World-class luxury accommodations — with their sleek lounges, fine dining, spas and other perks — have been rising all over the district, from such boutique design hotels as Le Germain, Soho Metropolitan and the Thompson to five-star hotel/residential towers like the Ritz-Carlton (2011) and the Trump, which opened in January.

The Shangri-La, the newest five-star hotel/condo tower, opened in August and will host the festival’s daylong Asian Film Summit Sept. 10.

The lengthy excavation included disassembling the Bishop’s Block, a protected 1930s heritage structure derelict since the 1970s. Recently restored brick-by-brick, the building now contains the just opened Soho House Toronto, a 10,000 sq.ft private club for creative types. Soho hosted several steaming-hot pop-up events and during the past three festivals, offering exclusive dinners and intimate soirees for celebs, industry heavyweights and their posses — and will do so again this year under its new roof.

Because of the cultural and nightlife spots, there’s an abundance of large restaurants and more intimate bistros used to handling diners on a timetable.

“Restaurants have been encouraged to create take-out items to offer during the festival,” says Janice Solomon, executive director of the district’s nonprofit business improvement organization, which provides 12,000 copies of its visitors guide to the festival for attendees. And while the festival’s former stomping ground, Yorkville, remains the destination for high-end shopping, the retail picture in the festival hub is bound to change as more luxury digs rise on the landscape.

The expansion of nightlife options owes much to the zone’s growing number of residents. Ten years ago just 3,500 people lived in what is locally called the Entertainment District. Thanks to Toronto’s condo boom — the Festival Tower atop the TIFF Lightbox contributing 42 floors of high-end living — there are some 10,000 residents. That number is expected to double within the next decade, with 40 developents already active in the area.

“We’re becoming a true mixed-use neighborhood,” says Solomon. “And with the residential comes more amenities.”

Toronto Int’l Film Festival 2012
Indie opportunities await at Toronto | Themes weave throughout diverse lineup | Toronto’s raffish hub gets posh hotels, grub | Focus stays downtown as docs get new home | Four spas offer pause to festgoers | Pic promoters blaze many trails to happy endings | Toronto giving docus Gala treatment | TIFF ratchets up femme focus in docs

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