Yes, Henry Kallan does have a name for the new hotel he is about to open on Toronto’s waterfront.
Many think Hotel X Toronto is only a temporary name while Kallan tries to come up with a more appropriate one. No; it is Hotel X Toronto, period.
It got that name because the 29-storey hotel stands on the grounds of The Ex – Canada’s biggest community event.
The Ex – or CNE, or Canadian National Exhibition – has been an annual midway party on the Toronto waterfront for 138 years. It seems this new 404-room hotel has been on the waterfront for that long too, but now all construction, environmental and legal issues are resolved and the place opens in mid-November (2017).
The city owns The Ex, and Kallan’s hotel chain – the Library Collection of Hotels – is leasing the site for 49 years with an option for an additional 49 years. The city has been trying to attract a hotel to The Ex for more than 20 years.
The 192-acre Exhibition Place is Canada’s largest entertainment venue and attracts 5.5 million visitors annually to large trade and consumer shows, sporting events, restaurants and nightclubs, but there were no overnight accommodations – until now.
The world’s fastest race cars rip through Exhibition Place during the annual Toronto Indy street race. Mario Andretti has won the race seven times.
The Toronto Argonauts football team and Toronto’s professional soccer team play their home games at the new BMO stadium at Exhibition Place.
Some of the site’s complications are incorporated right into the hotel’s design. The British Army built a fort on the same waterfront site in 1840 to replace old Fort York (now restored), which the Americans set ablaze during the War of 1812. The Brits reciprocated by burning down their capitol building in Washington, but things are more friendly now.
Five of the six stone buildings in the new British fort were dismantled, but their footings remain and some of them will extend right into the hotel and be exposed in the flooring system.
The sixth building – an officer’s mess hall called Stanley’s Barracks, original home of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame – still stands and it too will be incorporated into the operation of the hotel. It’s going to be a beer and burger pub and all interior finishes added since 1840 are being removed to restore its original historic look.
Stanley’s Barracks is named after Canada’s Governor-General at the time – Lord Stanley of Preston – the same guy who contributed a championship trophy to the best team in the new National Hockey League.
Hotel X Toronto is basically surrounded by parkland. Its elevated rooms offer a spectacular view of Toronto’s downtown skyline three kilometres to the east along Lakeshore Blvd.
Ontario Place, directly across Lakeshore Blvd. from the hotel, is undergoing a $100 million revitalization by the Ontario Government. At its peak Ontario Place drew 2.5 million visitors each summer.
As well as 404 guest rooms and large convention ballrooms, Kallan’s hotel will also have a large recreation and fitness centre with four indoor tennis courts, 9 glass-backed squash courts, two swimming pools, spa treatment rooms, hot yoga and rooftop yoga rooms, a golf simulator that can depict 90 different golf courses, a physiotherapy and chiropractic clinic and a 3,000-square-foot children’s play area. The fitness centre will offer public memberships as well as being open to registered hotel guests.
Kallan hopes his five-star Hotel X Toronto will have a similar reception as the new five-star boutique hotel and spa he opened two years ago in Budapest, Hungary. Last January his Aria Hotel, which is designed with a musical theme, was named the world’s finest hotel by TripAdvisor.
The on-line travel information service based its15th annual selection on millions of reviews collected from travellers for more than 7,610 properties in 117 countries and regions worldwide
Hotel X Toronto will be Kallan’s 8th hotel. At age 21 he immigrated to New York City from Bratislava, then in Czechoslovakia and got a job as a bus boy at the Gotham Hotel. By age 28 he was the manager of the prestigious hotel, now known as the Peninsula Hotel. Kallan, now 70, has hotels in Prague, Budapest and five in America, mostly in New York City.