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Designing from the heart

In the battle against AIDS, custom home builders Joe Brennan and Daniel Greenglass offer up their luxe talents, staging one of the most talked-about events of the social season

From palatial penthouses to Greco-roman-inspired estates, Joe Brennan and Daniel Greenglass are forces to be reckoned with when creating luxury homes. “I’m more of the design part,” says Brennan, of Brennan Custom Homes. “He’s more of the business part. So it’s the perfect yin and yang.”

The longevity of their 25-year professional pairing is matched only by their personal life together. Just in time for the couple’s silver anniversary, Brennan and Greenglass have created yet another stunning home by gutting and remodelling an old church near College and Bathurst. But this one’s just for them. “I’ve basically never lived in a house. I’ve always lived in buildings,” say Brennan. “We took the building down to four walls, left no floors, because we changed all the levels, and put in concrete and heated floors.”

That ambitious flare for design, coupled with a commitment to philanthropy, has brought them to the helm of the glamorous affair known as Bloor Street Entertains, an event benefitting the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR). “They are the perfect hosts because of their long-standing commitment to and understanding of this cause,” says Christopher Bunting, CANFAR president and CEO. “They have been generously supporting AIDS-related causes and CANFAR almost since the beginning.”

On Wed, Nov 28, the city’s glitterati will come together for a night of art, entertainment and food along the Mink Mile. Brennan and Greenglass are overseeing the creative direction of this year’s event, and like that old church on College, there are big changes in store.

“It’s still a disease that has no cure and, even though there are these great cocktails and drugs, you are not going to be cured. People should be careful and take precautions.”

“We decided to have a really outrageous cocktail party at 6:15 in the evening,” says Brennan, explaining the decision to do away with the afterparty, which saw dwindling attendance in recent years. “It’s not just a meet and greet. There will be entertainers all around the venue, a pop-up band or a pop-up singer,” he says. “It’s a twilight party. It’s a happening,” says Greenglass. “The intent is to get people energized and excited so they’re hyped up for their dinner.”

Once partygoers have worked up an appetite, they’ll disperse to nearly 25 venues scattered throughout Yorkville. Boutiques, dealerships and galleries by day — including Tiffany & Co, Holt Renfrew and Ferrari Maserati — will be transformed into opulent settings for an evening of fine meals prepared by the city’s top chefs.

Naturally, Brennan and Greenglass made some minor adjustments, adding private homes into the mix. “Twenty-five years ago, when it was called Food for Thought, they had the dinners in private houses,” says Greenglass. “There are some spectacular apartments on Bloor so we’re corralling three or four apartments that are higher-end and adding those to the list.”

This year, the Foundation’s 25th, CANFAR aims to raise $1 million at Bloor Street Entertains, with proceeds going to HIV/AIDS research and prevention. Having come of age during the AIDS crisis of the ’80s and early ’90s, Brennan and Greenglass know the devastation the disease can cause, and say that message is often lost on many young men. “Today’s generation has been so anesthetized. They’re blasé about it,” says Greenglass. “When I came out in 1987, people were scared. You don’t have that anymore. That’s why in the last 10 years the AIDS incidence has gone up so much.”

According to CANFAR, the rate of new HIV infections around the globe was down 15 per cent between 2001 to 2010; however, the rate of new infections in Canada continues to rise. “There needs to be much more education that it’s still there,” says Brennan. “It’s still a disease that has no cure and, even though there are these great cocktails and drugs, you are not going to be cured. People should be careful and take precautions.” And what better way to remind people of the costs of such an unglamorous disease than to throw a party the city will never forget?

BLOOR STREET ENTERTAINS $1,000. Wed, Nov 28. 6:15pm cocktail reception and auction. Royal Ontario Museum. 100 Queens Park. 8pm dinners (in various locales). bloorstreetentertains.ca.