Harry Stinson’s Mark on Toronto

By Bob Purcell

With a whole new millennium laid out before him, Harry Stinson has morphed into this city’s darling of downtown development – right up there with the irascible Donald Trump as the guy with a golden grip on condo/hotel projects in the city’s business core.

Harry’s big-time ball started rolling in the late 1990s at the southwest corner of King and Yonge Streets where, in a business partnership with theatrical entrepreneur David Mirvish, he acquired a bizarrely-narrow piece of property but had big, fat plans for it.

The site was just 47.5 feet wide, but Harry conjured up a concept for what will become, at 51 storeys, the country’s tallest residential complex when it opens its doors next March. It will also be, by far, Canada’s skinniest condo.

The project acquired its nom de plume, One King West, when the partnership bought the adjacent Dominion Bank of Canada building on the corner of King and Yonge. The magnificent old structure would be at the same time graciously resurrected and gloriously gutted, then married to the needle-like tower next door.

In all, One King West offers a total of 562 condominiums: 200 in the old bank building and 362 in the anorexic appendage to the west. All can be utilized as a full-time condo residence, as a part-time condo that can be sublet as a sometimes hotel room through Stinson’s management company, or as a personal/corporate purchase that can be rented out as a pure investment scheme.

Intrigued? Sorry. One King West is essentially sold out.

After Harry’s stint as Toronto’s hard-slogging Condo King, he invaded the somewhat more demure genre of condo conversions, taking tired old office buildings and warehouses and transforming them into gentrified digs for the city’s up-and-trendy younger set.

These landmark projects include The Candy Factory, Knitting Mill Lofts, the Victorian, Grangetown, High Park Lofts and the venerable Graphic Arts Building at 73 Richmond Street West, where the 50-year-old Toronto native currently hangs his rack of builder/developer/entrepreneur and general bon vivant hats.

Relaxing in the former Library Bar of Hy’s Steak House (now his suite of offices), Stinson mused about his seemingly meteoric rise as Toronto’s paramount condominium developer, and about the trials and tribulations along the way.

“I find this city to be absolutely numbing for a guy like me,” he allows. “The hurdles laid down – at City Hall, at Queen’s Park, all levels of the bureaucracy – are astonishing for anyone who’s anxious to have major projects move forward.”

Stinson says he finds Toronto “parochial – it’s like Peterborough, but with more streets!” The same, he maintains, applies to the province and to the country in general.

So where will Harry Stinson’s bouncing ball take him, five or 10 years down the road?

“I won’t be here in 10 years,” he said of the city that to date has been his life’s focus.

“I won’t decamp (from Toronto), mind you. But my projects will be elsewhere. Hong Kong would have been a good destination, but it’s too late for that market now. I don’t know. Maybe New York or London.”

His intention is to “migrate” soon from the condominium business and concentrate on developing “iconic structures” elsewhere that will allow him to leave the Stinson signature in a variety of global venues.

Stay tuned. Harry Stinson’s come a long way, but he’s not there yet.

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