Since its construction, Fairmont Royal York has been a significant landmark in downtown Toronto. Originally named the Queen’s Hotel in 1862, this prestigious hotel was renamed the Royal York in 1927 after Canadian Pacific Railway acquired it.

At that time, the 28-story hotel was the tallest building in the British Empire and featured revolutionary modern amenities such as guest room radios, elevators and private bathrooms. The hotel’s popularity was also influenced by its proximity to Union Station, as rail transportation was the primary mode of long-distance travel when the building was completed. 

However, after more than a century, Fairmont Royal York needed to modernize its lobby, restaurant, corridors and reception area in preparation for the hotel’s 90th anniversary. Due to this project’s complexity and fast-track schedule, the hotel dispatched Special Projects, PCL's small-contractor services offering. The project vision centered on redefining the hotel arrival experience and enabling a new era of luxury for the property while embracing the building’s famous historical character and creating a modern Art Deco design.

As a tribute to its past, the hotel’s main check-in area was renovated to resemble a train ticketing counter. To further accentuate the railway theme, the hotel opened a new lobby lounge called CLOCKWORK Champagne & Cocktails, creating a modern addition to the timeless lobby. 

Starting construction in June 2019, the project was completed in phases throughout a 10-month duration to ensure the hotel maintained daily operations. Construction remained relatively unseen during 24/7 hotel operations as the project team tackled remediation activities, as well as removing multiple flooring layers and extending the height of the ceiling.

The project team encountered unexpected complexity when it uncovered hazards from previous renovations and cosmetic upgrades. Incorporating the scope changes required the project team to work around the clock for the last several weeks to ensure that all work was completed on schedule.

Through flexibility and responsiveness, the team quickly developed targeted solutions and delivered a project that achieved the client’s vision.

“PCL approached the project with an innovative solution-provider focus to overcome pre-existing and unforeseen site conditions, take on additional scope, and incorporate multiple change orders, and they still delivered on time,” says Paul Campbell, KingSett Capital’s lead for the project. “PCL and its partners understood that this project represented more than just a renovation, but a rejuvenation of the history and soul of our great city. We are proud to have partnered with PCL on this challenging revitalization project and thank them for their contributions to preserving and enhancing the legacy of this iconic building.” 

In addition to achieving the client’s needs, the project also won several awards, including the Architectural Woodwork Manufacturers Association of Canada Award of Excellence for commercial projects over $250,000, the Toronto Construction Association Best of the Best Award in the medium category and Hotelier magazine’s Best Lobby Design 200+ Rooms Award.

PCL’s highly skilled Special Projects team overcame complex site challenges to deliver this fast-track revitalization project on schedule with no impact to the guest experience. At the same time, Special Projects demonstrated its ability to preserve a building’s important historical elements while adding modern flare.