Serving Toronto's most liveable community with the Annex Gleaner

NEWS: New life for old theatre (Aug./Sept. 2018)

September 11th, 2018 · No Comments

Brunswick Avenue boutique hotel set to open

It’s taken a lot of renovation to refurbish 296 Brunswick Ave. into a 24-room boutique hotel. TEMI DADA/GLEANER NEWS

By Temi Dada

Since its original incarnation as a horse stable in 1902 it’s been home to a live theatre, bar, and arcade. But starting next month, 296 Brunswick Ave. will have a new face: boutique hotel.

Located just south of Bloor Street West, the hotel is called The Annex, in a bid to embody the neighbourhood, according to general manager Michael Shea.

“I moved to Toronto in 2011 but I was always on the road. I didn’t have the opportunity to live in the city and experience it,” said Shea, who always wanted to be part of the city and contribute something of value. He has worked in the hotel business since 2001, and has wanted to open a hotel for a long time.

“The big focus is to be a part of the neighbourhood. Toronto has so many great neighbourhoods, but our part of the Annex — which is further down, close to Koreatown — is where the tourists don’t typically see but is unique,” Shea said.

The location of the hotel will give guests a complete Annex experience, because it is close to cafes, restaurants, and local landmarks like Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. The hotel will have 24 rooms over two floors, and rates will range from $200 to $300 per night, depending on size.

The hotel has partnered with Annex businesses like DMV books to add a local flair to each of the rooms. Each room will have a collection of books from the bookstore, and the food commons will feature food from Big Trouble Pizza and Seven Lives Tacos from Kensington Market.

“We hope that the hotel does great in the Annex,” said Mike Murray, manager of BMV Books. “Could be pretty cool to have some people travelling and staying in our neighbourhood. There are lots of great places and businesses in the Annex.”

Brian Burchell, chair of the Bloor Annex BIA (and publisher of this newspaper), agreed.

“The style of the hotel speaks volumes about the character of this neighbourhood. The hotels are not built like fortresses; they are very communal and open, they encourage their guests to experience everything about the community. It is a confirmation that the Annex is a destination and a completely livable community.”

Shea said that it’s where he’d want to stay if he were from out of town.

“It is informal and relaxed but at the same time there is a great deal of attention into the decor. It is modern without forsaking any kind of comfort or luxurious elements just for the sake of being modern. You won’t find another place in the city like this.”

It took some time to finish all the work on the site. The hotel, which is almost 120 years old, was supposed to open in May.

“We are looking forward to having a positive impact on our neighbourhoods and hopefully inspiring other people, neighbours, and businesses. We want to build something special for the people of this city. Toronto is becoming a destination for independent travellers,” Shea said. “We want to make sure that we are going to be the option they decide to stay.”

The hotel’s owners hope to open other branches in Toronto, other parts of Canada, and the United States using the same model: finding an old building that needs a bit of care, and bringing it back to life.

Tags: Annex · News