Back to Press
  • Share

“You're very tense,” the masseuse at the Vancouver Shangri-La Hotel spa informs me as she works her strong fingers deep into the network of tight knots clustered across my back and neck. The five-hour cross-country flight I'd just been on hadn't helped matters. Not that I was complaining, this was hardly a taxing assignment. I'd jetted out to Vancouver to stay a night at the opulent Shangri-La and experience all the luxury the city's newest five-star hotel-condo has to offer. The city's tallest tower, it's the place where A-list celebs like Sting, Justin Timberlake, Jackie Chan and Tom Cruise bed down when they're in town. My mission: Soak up the Shangri-La vibe and give readers and prospective condo buyers at Toronto's Shangri-La, a 66-storey hotel-residential project which opens next year on the southwest corner of University and Queen, a sense of what to expect. Like with the Vancouver Shangri-La, condo owners at the Toronto development will have access to hotel amenities, including a fine-dining restaurant, housekeeping service and a fleet of Mercedes-Benz with drivers to take you anywhere downtown. There will also be Shangri-La's trademark spa, Chi. After an hour at the Vancouver Chi spa — sipping ginger tea and having my kinks worked out by expert hands — I could certainly see how one might enjoy living Shangri-La-style, especially if it's only an elevator ride away from your condo. Groggy but refreshed post-spa, I readied myself for dinner at, the Vancouver Shangri-La's critically acclaimed dining spot, which is helmed by three-star Michelin chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Market offers dishes that have been described as “sublime and “intense,” with “casual but impeccable service” by the Vancouveer Sun. Toronto's Shangri-La will get its own high-calibre dining spot, says Michael Braun, an executive with Westbank Project Corp., the Vancouver-based developer and owner of both the Vancouver and Toronto Shangri-La projects, with the Peterson Group as partners. It was recently announced that David Chang, head of New York's Momofuku empire, will be opening two of his trademark restaurants and a bar in a building adjacent at Toronto's Shangri-La. “I'm not trying to bring New York to Toronto,” Chang told the Star's Jennifer Bain in a phone interview earlier this month. “We just want to serve good food. It's our job to find out what Toronto wants. It's our job to empathize and find out what the needs are.” Braun joined me for dinner at Market. Over a mouth-watering spread — steamed shrimp salad, rice cracker crusted tuna, black truffle pizza, Parmesan chicken — he discussed Westbank's plans for the Toronto Shangri-La. The condo portion of the project will include 370 units, ranging from 859-square-foot one-bedroom suites to 3,262-square-foot two-bedroom-plus-den “private estates.” The tower's top floors will include a pair of two-floor, 6,700-square-foot penthouses. (The hotel will have 200 suites.) Residences at the Toronto Shangri-La start at $1 million for a 1,100-square-foot suite. Private estates are priced from $2.7 million and the penthouses are selling for $18.8 million each. The project went on sale back in 2007 and is around 75 per cent sold at the moment, Braun says. Full occupancy of the hotel and residences is planned for September 2012. The building is designed by James K.M. Cheng Architects, the same firm that did Vancouver's Shangri-La and the city's other new luxury project, the Fairmont Pacific Rim and helped develop the concept of Vancouverism. Cheng's team is working with Toronto-based Hariri Pontarini Architects. The condo kitchens will have high-end Boffi wood cabinetry, polished granite slab countertops and Miele and Sub-Zero appliances. There's marble flooring in the bathrooms with oversized tile in the master ensuite. There will also be a Kohler “Tea-for-Two” cast iron tub in the master ensuite. All suites have electric fireplaces and motorized sun shades in the higher-priced units; estate residents also have a private two-car garage. “It's almost like buying a hotel room in a way,” Braun says, “you're just adding your furniture.” The real advantage of owning a suite at Toronto's Shangri-La is having full access to all the hotel amenities. Valet service, for example. “You can pull up front and either park in your own stall or just hand the guy the keys,” Braun explains. And, in the event you need to head anywhere in downtown Toronto, or even out to the airport, there is a car and driver ready to take you. Shangri-La has a partnership with Mercedes-Benz, “so there will be a couple of S-Classes and R-Classes to drive people around in,” says Braun. A nice touch; sensible too. “If you're going to a restaurant, you don't have to worry about the drinking or the parking thing.” Famished but can't be bothered to fix yourself something to eat? Shangri-La Toronto condo buyers can simply head downstairs for a meal in the restaurant. Or they could order room service from the restaurant, whether it's a burger for one or a feast to fuel a dinner party. “If you entertain it's like having built-in catering,” Braun says. Condo getting a bit dusty? You can arrange for the Shangri-La housekeeping service to visit. After dinner, I follow Braun up to the Shangri-La's super-luxe penthouse on the 61st floor. The two-storey suite, with floor to ceiling windows offering stunning panoramic views of the Vancouver nighttime skyline, has been sold for $17.3 million. The Toronto penthouses will be 6,700 square feet each and priced at $18.8 million. Shangri-La's Toronto project is the company's second in North America, and Braun says the owners plan to continue their expansion into most major American markets. The public art at the Toronto Shangri-La will be the work leading contemporary artist Zhang Huan. Huan was selected by the developers after a global search conducted with the Art Gallery of Ontario serving as an adviser. His installation will involve fabricated birds surrounding the Shangri-La tower, “appearing to animate and activate the entire facade,” says Braun. The Shangri-La name may be new to Toronto, but it's a known quantity worldwide, particularly in Asia (the company is based in Hong Kong). “Shangri-La is the fourth most recognized brand in Asia, after Coca-Cola, Nike and Cathay Pacific,” Braun says. READ FULL ARTICLE