The site of the iconic Hotel Waverly and of music venue The Silver Dollar Room has joined the growing list of proposed developments in the Spadina-College area. Development company and building owner The Wynn Group hope to revitalise the area with a 22-storey student residence.
Should the application to amend the zoning by-law on the site and building plans be accepted, the proposed 14,676 square metre building will include over 200 residential units for students in the upper 20 stories, the first two storeys will be mixed-use, including a newly re-built Silver Dollar Room on the first level and a “boutique” fitness centre also owned and run by The Wynn Group on the second. The new building would also include three levels of underground parking and 200 bicycle parking spaces.
Built in 1900, The Hotel Waverly is one of Toronto’s oldest running hotels and has stood on the corner of Spadina and College for more than 100 years. While it was once a place of luxury, the reputation and upkeep of the building has declined dramatically over the years. Paul Wynn, who has owned the building with brother Jeff for over 20 years described the existing structure as, essentially, a “fire-trap,” saying that the current structure of the hotel is primarily made out of wood, with steel structures, such as the Silver Dollar Room, that have been added on over the years. Wynn says the new plans hope to cover one big area, sharing the same façade at the front. The Wynn Group have been looking at redeveloping the area for over 10 years, and have spent years negotiating with City Council and the neighbouring CIBC building. Now they think the time is right for a change.
Last year, a condominium project on 245 College Street, also aimed at students, was rejected by City Council following an outcry from community groups. The developer appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board, where the issue is currently in mediation, with a hearing scheduled for July 1. The 245 College proposal is different, Wynn says, “The College Street condominium was over three times the size of our proposal. We know we cannot do a condominium high rise in the area, not next to the Scots Mission, so our only alternative is to do student housing.” By building a student residence, Wynn hopes to alleviate the shortage of student housing in the area. Although specifically intended for U of T students, Wynn aims to attract all students in the area, stating, “Toronto has a need for student housing and we’re not looking for a big change; the building will have the same, independent Silver Dollar Room, a small boutique fitness club…building student housing is a rational approach to the site. We’re not Riocan. We’re not bringing a Walmart to the neighbourhood.”
While there may be objections to losing another historic Toronto building, Wynn hopes that by incorporating elements of the current building into the new, people will see the proposal as a positive change. Wynn intends to keep the Waverly name for the building, and the Silver Dollar Room will stay in the building, with the iconic neon sign displayed in front. “We’re looking to create a nicer streetscape specifically for the first three or four levels…We’re hoping the city will allow us to think outside the box and let us use the same canopy as we have right now,” says Wynn. The proposal is still in its early stages, and City Council will have to approve any zoning changes. When asked to comment on the proposed timeline, Wynn said he did not have a “crystal ball” but “if Councillor Vaughn supports us publically and at council then I would anticipate two to three years, as judging from past experience with him I would wager on a longer period.”