Tony Cohen, the young yet seasoned entrepreneur, can't help but beam a bright smile as he sits in the slick, modern lobby of the Thompson Toronto on Wellington Street West. After five long years of careful planning and execution along with his partners Freed Developments, the latest venture from the man who helped open Hotel Le Germain in 2003 is just about ready to open its doors.
Boasting 336 condominiums, 102 plush hotel rooms and more amenities than the highest of high rollers could exhaust, the new spot is designed to impress. President & CEO, Global Edge Investments and SVP Business Development Canada, Crescent Hotels & Resorts, Cohen is more than just a really impressive Linked In profile; he's a globetrotter who wants to bring the very best to the city he believes deserves it.
What is your day job?
It changes every day. I'm president of a company I founded called Global Edge Investments, a hospitality-based investment and management company. Through our affiliations and partnership we own hotels, manage hotels and restaurants and develop general hospitality concepts.
What can we expect from Thompson Toronto?
This is a mix-use condo hotel project. There are 336 condominiums and 102 hotel rooms. We like to call it an urban playground. The central King West area has, over the last number of years, evolved and developed in large part because of my partner Peter Freed and his condo developments and what has been done with the commercial office spaces that have been renovated.
We have also have 30,000 square feet of various amenity spaces like the rooftop pool bar that will have unprecedented views of the city. What we are sitting in right now is our lobby lounge. Over here (motions to his right) is our restaurant Scarpetta which is a refined Italian food from our New York chef Scott Conant, who they say is the best Italian chef in North America and he's not even Italian!
There will also be a 24-hour seven-days-a-week diner on Bathurst. We call it a modern reinterpretation of a classic diner. The diner will also take care of the room service for the hotel and condos. Below us, we have a lower level lounge, a function room that can sit 200-people, a 40-person screening room and a corporate board room.
Where do you live in Toronto?
I live in South Hill south of Forest Hill on a street called on Poplar Plains Road. It's basically on the only hill in Toronto. I live about halfway up the hill. I know it's about halfway up because every single biker stops right in front of my house when they realize that the hill is a little harder to climb than it once looked.
What are a few of your favourite things about Toronto?
It's accessibility in terms of going everywhere. I like that it's a big city but that it doesn't have the horrible crime or oppressive pollution. To an extent, it's a clean, nice city. When I got into the hotel business in Toronto about eight years ago, I was embarrassed as a Torontonian that I had never gone up the CN Tower. The CN Tower is really a phenomenal structure.
I also love the recent renovation at the AGO, I think Frank Gehry did an amazing job. I love the TD Building and all the Mies van der Rohe buildings; that cluster that was built in the '70s was really the foundation of what has become the business centre of Canada.
How often does your job take you away from here?
All the time! I do a lot of traveling for business. I go to New York, Montreal, California, Washington, London. I mean you could say 'Super Elite' is my middle name.
Do you fly First Class? Aisle or Window?
Who doesn't prefer First Class when possible? But, seriously, window, always the window.
What are your top three travel tips?
Well, I have a lot of them but the best three are: Nexus, airport lounges and being as efficient as possible. One of the things that drives me absolutely crazy is when someone just walks into an airport and just drops their bags and starts looking around. Also, and this is important: the shortest line is not always the fastest.
What have you seen on your travels that you want to bring back to Toronto?
A rooftop pool bar has not existed in this city and we'll be the first. A really vibrant lobby lounge and lobby bar. I don't think that exists here and now it will. Any bar hotel in New York, LA, Miami, London or Milan, if you go in you notice right away the energy there. That is really what we are trying to accomplish here. Le Germain is a bit more subdued but in this central King West area that skews to a younger and more active demographic, I think we will be able to create that atmosphere.
How will this project reflect what is unique about Toronto?
In a few ways, I think. Look at this incredible mural by Javier Mariscal from Barcelona. It's his own whimsical interpretation of the Toronto skyline, it's a good example of our approach. I think we have tried to bring out unique elements of the city. We have just incredible views of Toronto and I know that people have been waiting for a place like this that can be a real local destination and a meeting point. That's what we hope it will be.
Where are you off to next?
I just got back from Israel three weeks ago and I'm off to London in a couple weeks for a business meeting. Hopefully, I'll be able to grab three days off there.