Seven-year itch: the Drake Hotel announces plans for expansion

Seven-year itch: the Drake Hotel announces plans for expansion

The Drake Hotel (Image: Amber Dawn Pullen)

Since the day its current incarnation opened—Valentine’s Day, 2004—the Drake Hotel has been the restless centre of West Queen West. Unable to remain contained in its original building, the self-proclaimed “hotbed for culture” spread east, spawning a retail shop and barbecue joint. And now, as part of its seventh anniversary celebration, the Drake has announced that it will be expanding yet again. The plan is to provide additional rooms, new menu items, and enhanced performance and exhibit spaces for artists.

What a difference a year makes: The Drake General Store and what eventually became the Drake BBQ in February 2010 (Image: Grant Hollingworth)

“We’ve been thinking about the expansion for quite a while now; it’s sort of been in fruition almost since the opening,” Ana Yuristy, director of hotel operations, told us, adding that the new guest rooms will be just east of the main hotel. Owner Jeff Stober purchased the buildings next door early on—those that house the Drake General Store and Drake BBQ—and it’s the space above these that will be filled in with additional rooms.

The Drake has partnered with local architecture firm ERA Architects Inc. on the expansion, along with a yet-to-be-announced international design firm. ERA’s  portfolio reveals the firm’s familiarity with iconic Toronto buildings, including helping to restore the Distillery District and adapt Maple Leaf Gardens for reuse. “We’ve moved very slowly and very cautiously just to make sure that it’s really clear how committed we are to the neighbourhood and especially to the scale of the neighbourhood,” says Yuristy. “It’s gone through a lot of change, so [we wanted] to find a plan that will be exciting and appropriate for all the stakeholders in the area.”

While it’s much too early to have a new menu set, Yuristy says ventures—such as the pop-up ice cream shop this past summer and the Drake BBQ—are part of trying out new ideas for the future: “We’ve been playing with different food concepts over the past couple of summers…to experiment with what kind of food concepts we might further develop for the expansion.” Like the Drake’s current food offerings, the updated menu is sure to carry the fresh and local ethos dear to the heart of executive chef Anthony Rose. The expansion will also allow the Drake to extend visual and performance art platforms that Yuristy hopes will attract even higher calibre shows and performances.

In a press release, Stober said he’s thankful for the Drake’s success so far and excited about what the future holds for the hotel: “Being a Toronto-founded company, we are very proud of the outstanding community support we’ve received…. We now look to growth as a means of further developing our lifestyle brand and enhancing our hotel.” Yuristy echoed Stober’s sentiments, admitting that although many details about the expansions have yet to be finalized, the team couldn’t wait to let the cat out of the bag. While no clear timeline has been announced, more details will come in early spring.  Stay tuned.

(Image: café light, Gary J. Wood)