Trumped Up

By Ilona Kauremszky
Special to

Toronto, - The Donald has arrived. The real estate mogul turned reality TV tycoon is about to put his golden touch if not his brand label on Toronto and in the heart of Chicago. He’s using the winner of his first Apprentice TV show, Bill Rancic, a local Chicagoan to muster up the developer’s troops.

Not since the completion of the John Hancock Center in the swinging sixties or the erection of the Sears Tower and Standard Oil Building (Aon Center) during the disco era has there been so much hoopla over a new mega-tower that will transform the city’s landscape.

But does Chicago or Toronto for that matter need The Donald?

Insiders say yes.

“It’s the Donald experience,” says Barry Landsberg, director of marketing for Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto. “It’s very important to have this brand (in Toronto). It’s the comfort level. You get off the plane and say to your driver, ‘take me to the Trump.’ Internationally it’s a very strong brand where we’ve sold our luxury suites in over 15 countries,” Barry says, adding that foreign presales originate from countries such as the United Kingdom, Singapore, Bahamas, Bermuda, US, Hong Kong, Dubai and Kuwait.

Dubbed “The Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto,” or Trump Toronto, the $500-million luxury mixed-use residential and hotel condominium will showcase 70 storeys of pure opulence, offering its residents a gift basket of decadent amenities. Besides an 18,000 square foot health club and spa with views of Lake Ontario, the 5-star hotel will have 265 rooms and suites from the 11th to the 30th floors with private condominium residences from floor 37 and up. It’s located smack in the epicentre of the financial district, walking distance to the entertainment district, and Toronto’s underground shopping city (PATH).

Trump Toronto will offer on-site two Mercedes S class limo service. Barry says, “If the hubby uses the chauffeur in the morning for his drive to the airport and his wife also has an appointment, she’ll be taken care by our private Mercedes service.”

For a brand label with “international” in its moniker, the Toronto undertaking is the first brand to leap above the 49th parallel. But if you consider the architectural firms employed in these ventures are Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), once the largest architectural firm in the world in Chicago and Zeidler Partnership Architects in Toronto, both firms have designed countless buildings around the world.

Appropriately SOM’s Adrian Smith, the chief architect for Trump Chicago has worked on two other great Chicago buildings: the Sears Tower and the Hancock Center. Meanwhile Zeidler Partnership is more recently noted for the Niagara Fallsview Casino, University of Toronto’s Morrison Hall and has made forays into Indonesia, South Korea and Mexico.

Architect Adrian Smith revealed to Emporis, the world's biggest provider of information on the global building market, some of his thoughts on Trump Chicago. “On the Trump Tower the heights of the surrounding buildings have an influence on the massing. The first setback relates to the Wrigley Building, the second setback relates to the height of Marina City and River Plaza, and the third setback relates to the IBM Building,” he noted and added, “The texture of IBM influenced the texture of Trump, and the rhythm and lightness of the Wrigley Building influenced the materials and mullion spacing. The challenge in making this a contextual piece is that it’s located in the midst of several dynamic buildings. Each has their own importance to the city and to the field of architecture in general.”

Replacing the squat Sun-Times building on the riverfront, the Trump Chicago will be a 92-story building looming 1,362 feet / 415 meters to the tip of the spire when completed in 2008.

When I visited our twin city Chicago this summer, cranes were removing the last remains of the Sun-Times building built in 1956. They closed North Wabash Street and developed a walkway over the site where the giant hole became a local attraction.

On a river cruise, John Chaput, a local docent from Chicago’s Architecture Foundation pointed out a towering steel façade overlooking the Chicago River. “If you took this building and turned it on its side, it would resemble the Parthenon in Athens Greece,” he says describing the IBM Plaza.

Next to the IBM tower is the growing cavity for Trump Chicago. “This is not a playground for children who like big toys. This is the future home of the Trump International Hotel and Tower,” he says.

Susan Diesenhouse, a Chicago Tribune reporter, says Chicagoans seem to want “The Donald.” To date the largest condominium project in the U.S estimates presales of $700US-million and “that certainly is the record here in Chicago,” she says of the estimated $750US million-complex.

In Toronto, building cranes are rising daily as waterfront condo development proceeds with a look and feel of Hong Kong. It’s no surprise that Donald Trump Jr. 27, and Russian-Canadian Forbes-listed billionaire Alex Shnaider 37, two rising stars in the development business, happened to be aboard a luxury yacht in Hong Kong whooing the gliterrati with the chance to purchase what they call the “hottest luxury real estate” ever known to hit Toronto.

Shnaider, chairman of Talon International Development, and Trump Jr. along with Bill Rancic were part of the Trump Toronto publicity launch last spring.

Yet the dream of a luxury high-rise on the corner of Bay and Adelaide almost failed. In 2000 the Ritz-Carlton announced plans for its first luxury skyscraper hotel in Toronto. Released as a big blitz it was later discovered the original American developer hightailed it out of the US after being convicted of bankruptcy fraud and embezzlement. The Ritz-Carlton abandoned the project.

But Barry says now thanks to the likes of Shnaider and Trump, the vision is back. The ground for Trump Toronto is expected to break next summer and the marketing team reports 70% of the luxury hotel rooms and suites as sold with 25%-30% presales in residential suites.

“The building will have the look and feel of Manhattan with the use of glass and steel architectural elements and the site itself is special as the building is set back from the Scotia Tower offering magnificent views,” says Barry.

So it’s no wonder Toronto and Chicago are billed as “Twin Cities.” Besides dusting off the old nickname “Hog Town,” both cities boast the architect of the month, Frank Gehry. His Millenium Park has won the hearts of Chicagoans while Torontonians await his revamped façade of the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Now both Chicago and Toronto are eagerly waiting for the Trump golden touch.


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