Toronto Sun: West-end building project goes from trash to treasure

A plan to revive a Toronto heritage building – used only as a recycling and garbage incineration plant in its heyday – into a luxury events venue, began over the sale of a pair of blue Michael Kors stiletto heels.

Viviana Kohon met up with Caitie Yue for the shoes, but the women formed a friendship after learning they both had a background in event planning. Another event planner, Namita Tandon-Walsh, jumped into the mix and the three had a vision of creating a unique venue in the city.

They discovered The Symes – near Weston Rd. and St. Clair Ave. W.

Now, the three women are partnering to turn the abandoned two-storey building into a magnificent space – complete with a rooftop space, preserved circular Art Deco-era windows and beautiful interior and exterior exposed brickwork – to be open in October.

“We started with shoes, but we became business-oriented later,” said Kohon, the co-partner and director of marketing for The Symes.

“When we first saw it in February of last year, it was leaky and gross and it was full of graffiti and we still fell in love with it,” said Yue, a real estate investor and the director of business strategy for the project.

“All three of us thought it was breathtaking. Look at this history in the building…It’s amazing to think that in the ‘30s, they created a building this beautiful for garbage, because they don’t even create buildings like this for people to live in anymore.”

The Symes is situated on 5.5 acres next to Stock Yards Village in the Junction, tucked away in an industrial zone that includes a meat packing company. The space itself – dated at 1933 – is about 9,700-square-feet over the two levels and can accommodate 600. Junction Craft Brewing will brew its suds on the main floor, next door to another beer company, Rainhard Brewery.

Most recently, 150 Symes Rd. was occupied by people who threw raves. Before that, it stood as a garbage plant that was decommissioned in the 1996.

“When the Distillery District first opened, everybody gravitated towards that because it has such historical buildings,” said Walsh, a co-partner and director of sales, who spent 10 years working in catering for the Four Seasons Hotel. “When (Evergreen) Brick Works opened, it was the same concept. Ours fits what we dreamed about.”

No word on how much the restoration costs, but Yue said “it’s not inexpensive.”

The three partners are hoping for wedding bookings, product launches, corporate events, small concerts and fundraisers. In fact, they’ve already booked their first wedding in November, even though the building is still knee-deep in construction.

Even with the more modern upgrades, the design lines still fall parallel to how the building originally was, as per the city’s strict heritage preservation rules.

“Our clients can come and dream what they want,” said Kohon. “They can hang fancy chandeliers or make it more rustic or anything they want. That’s the beauty of a building like this. It has nice bones and you can make it anything you want.”

Fittingly, this location was used to film scenes from the movie, Cinderella Man, starring Russell Crowe.

But perhaps the real Cinderella story is how these three women came together. And instead of a Prince Charming, they’re in search of other future diamonds in the rough.

“I think our partnership is great because we’re very different, but we’re also the same – three strong women in their capabilities in business, but we’re also moms,” said Kohon. “The three of us have families to run and we have similar priorities in life.”


By Jenny Yuen.  Read the article:

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