The Britt: Historic Sutton Place Hotel Reincarnated

The Britt Exterior

Toronto condo keeping the best, modernizing the rest

Built in the late 1960s, the Sutton Place Hotel was a favourite Toronto haunt for Hollywood royalty. Christopher Plummer, Meryl Streep, Sandra Bulloch, Sophia Loren, Michael Caine—the list of former residents with film pedigrees is very, very long.

Unfortunately, after it’s heyday in the 1980s, the Sutton spent the last 20 years aging, which never bodes well for a Hollywood career.

A building once seen as stylish and modern now looks like a monolithic, texture-less block of concrete with a closed and exclusive presence at street level.

Last summer, Lanterra Developments purchased the Sutton, not for demolition but for an elaborate career comeback as a condominium tower. It has been renamed the Britt Condominiums.

Best known as the developers of Maple Leaf Square, Lanterra has recently been busy on Bay Street, responsible for several large projects very near the Sutton including Murano and Burano, located two blocks south on Bay across the street from each other.

In March, Lanterra announced another major building site destined for a condo tower and large public park across from the Sutton at 11 Wellesley St. West.

More than a facelift

Although most of Lanterra’s condominium projects are built from scratch, their renovation of the Irwin Toy Factory in Liberty Village won the company the GTA Home Builder’s Association [now BILD] 2005 Project of the Year award.

Compared to Toy Factory Lofts, much more of the Sutton will be stripped away. The parking lot below grade and the spine of the building are all that will be kept.

“You’re able to keep the main footprint and the lines of the old Sutton Place,” says Lanterra president and CEO Barry Fenton.

Page + Steele/IBI Group Architects have written a brand new role for the building, including nine additional storeys.

The podium will be extended further along Wellesley Street and up to eight storys, with the bottom two storeys containing from 20,000 to 25,000 sq. ft. of retail space.

The podium’s limestone façade will give a more traditional and lasting warmth at street level, its height matching that of neighbouring buildings, creating a unified streetscape.

The tower’s portion that holds the old Sutton will now be glass cladding. The added top floors will be a combination of wrap-around balconies and glass façade.

Sutton souvenirs?

After a tour of some of England’s spectacularly refurbished hotels, the Lanterra team, including designer Alessandro Munge, drew inspiration from London’s unique ability to blend heritage architecture with modern design.

Portions of the old Sutton lobby, chandeliers, marble details, and woodwork will be sprinkled about the Britt.

Iconic items like Sophia Loren’s favourite end tables and the fireplaces from the ballroom will be incorporated.

“When people walk through the building they’ll recognize some of it,” says Fenton. “We’re planning to keep some of the pianos that were used by musicians like Michael Jackson.”

But can you buy Michael Jackson’s room? The short answer is no.

In fact, nothing of the old hotel suites will remain. Residents may share the physical location with any number of celebrities, but all walls, flooring, plumbing, wiring, and HVAC will, thankfully, be brand new.

Fenton says Lanterra will also seek LEED certification, though what level is to be determined.

“We still want to keep the royal feel, but really clean it up,” he says. “This complex will have a lot of amenities that a hotel would have,” including a hotel-style concierge who can take care of everything, from your dry cleaning to theatre tickets.

Even if you never use the outdoor pool, visit the gym, book the theatre and party rooms, or send your pet to the pet spa, you live at Bay and Wellesley, and that’s the bottom line.

Queen’s Park, Bloor St., the University of Toronto, several major hospitals, and both the Bloor and Yonge-Spadina subway lines are a five-minute walk away.

Even the most sought-after celeb can throw on a baseball cap and sunglasses and hop anonymously onto the subway.

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