Inside Yorkville’s Soon-To-Be-Demolished Retail Plazas [Featured Photo-Tour]

Toronto’s affluent Yorkville neighbourhood is about to see an unprecedented wave of redevelopment, which will see a number of vintage retail plazas demolished in the coming years. We toured and photographed several of these mini-malls and created a tour to describe what’s to come for one of Canada’s wealthiest commercial and residential districts. 

Despite its prestige, Yorkville features a number of unpretentious and in some instances, unkempt retail corridors that serve a number of small retailers. Some of the malls also include a considerable amount of vacant retail space, providing insight into why accessibility and visibility are key in order to ensure success in drawing visitors. 

We toured the following plazas, as per the map below, and have provided a description of what’s there, and what’s to come. 

(1) Cumberland Terrace
(2) Village Arcade
(3) 99 Yorkville Avenue
(4) 104-108 Yorkville Avenue
(5) 1240 Bay Street
(6) York Square
(7) Old York Lane (not to be demolished) 


1) Cumberland Terrace

The three-level Cumberland Terrace opened to the public in 1974, and its interiors reflect its age. The lower level features a number of small, independent retailers, as well as a food court that can get busy during lunch hours. The main floor features a number of retailers and where it faces Bloor Street West, Swarovski and Talbots flank the entrance. A second level is almost completely empty, as per photos below. 

Most of the existing Cumberland Terrace will be demolished for a major redevelopment that some are calling 'Yorkville Square'. Details will be revealed in the next while for what is expected to become one of the most important urban redevelopment projects in the city in years. 

Above is the Yonge Street entrance to Cumberland Terrace. An interesting fact -- 'The Potter's Field' cemetery was once located here, established in 1826. The cemetery was closed in 1855 and between 1851 and 1881, the remains of 6,685 people were moved to other cemeteries in the city, allowing for redevelopment of the northwest corner of Yonge Street and Bloor Street West. 

A directory on the ground floor of Cumberland Terrace, providing wayfinding for all three levels. The TTC subway Line 2 runs under part of the complex. Holt Renfrew's Bloor Street flagship connects to Cumberland Terrace via the adjacent Holt Renfrew Centre

Cumberland Terrace's ground floor features a number of small, independent retailers. 

Looking down from the mostly vacant top retail level of Cumberland Terrace. 

Above is a Cumberland Street entrance to Cumberland Terrace, indicating what was once possibly a grand retail plaza. 

Lower-level food court at Cumberland Terrace. Lunch hours are the busiest time, by far. 

Ground floor retail spaces at Cumberland Terrace. Tall windows facing Cumberland Street provide ample sunlight. 

Bloor Street West entrance to Cumberland Terrace, featuring Talbot's and Swarovski stores. 

2) Village Arcade.

Another retail plaza that's seen better days is the 'Village Arcade' at 50 Cumberland Street. The one-level retail hallway acts as a passageway between Cumberland Street and Yorkville Avenue, at the base of a large multi-storey parking garage. Remarkably, this plaza is a stone's throw away from some of Canada's most expensive condominium units at the Four Seasons Hotel and Residences

Much of the entire block, including the parkade as well as adjacent 1235 and 1255 Bay Street office towers, will be demolished as part of the 'Yorkville Square' redevelopment mentioned above.  

Cumberland Street entrance to 'Village Arcade', facing Cumberland Terrace that was described above. 

The interior corridor of Village Arcade is clean and quaint, featuring several small businesses. This photo is looking north from the Cumberland Street entrance towards Yorkville Avenue. 

The Yorkville Avenue entrance to 'Village Arcade' is considerably newer. A development proposal is on its wall, which will be updated as new redevelopment plans are presented to the City for approval. 

3) 99 Yorkville Avenue

Located beside Yorkville Avenue's new Christian Louboutin boutique, 99 Yorkville Avenue is ripe for change. A series of dated corridors house a number of smaller retailers, as well as a number of vacant storefronts. At one time, it was expected that quaint laneways would attract shoppers and retailers, but we've since learned that visibility and accessibility is what works best. 

While it's unclear what exactly will happen with these retail spaces, we can say that a number of nearby buildings will be demolished and replaced with street-facing retail. The half-level 'up-down' retail spaces characteristic of much of Yorkville fail to gain the same rental rates as easy-access street-level retail spaces. Landlords are acting accordingly and in a number of instances, are planning to demolish existing buildings in order to construct modern storefronts with easy-access sidewalk-accessed doorways. 

The photo above looks towards the entrance of 99 Yorkville Avenue. The red facade of Christian Louboutin, which opened in the summer of 2016, is on the right. Yorkville Avenue is in transition -- this summer, Chanel will open an 8,700 square foot flagship across the street, and other luxury retailers will be soon be announced for spaces nearby.  

Inside of the 99 Yorkville Avenue retail plaza. Most spaces are currently unoccupied, with awkward access and narrow interior hallways. 

A 'character corridor' within the 99 Yorkville complex. This photo was taken through locked glass doors. The doors at the end of this photo face towards the Minto Yorkville luxury residential rental building, with a 5,500 square foot Pusateri's Fine Foods grocery store at its base. 

An exterior corridor that has generally failed to attract retailers and shoppers. 

3) 104-108 Yorkville Avenue

The laneway in these photos is expected to remain in a modified form, though the buildings at the forefront are slated for demolition. Chanel will locate in the brick building to the right. Pricey, hip streetwear retailer CNTRBND is currently in the laneway in the photo below, though in May of this year it will relocate to a streetfront space at 135 Yorkville Avenue.

Above are two rendering of what will replace the buildings at 104-108 Yorkville Avenue, via Kearns Mancini Architects. Three European luxury retailers will occupy the street-level spaces when the project is completed towards the end of 2018. 

5) 1240 Bay Street

A nondescript retail hallway within the building is located directly above the Bay TTC subway station. The photo below is of the Bellair Street entrance. Quirky Toronto-based beauty retailer Deciem occupies the retail storefront marked 'Not Bay', hopefully providing clarification to commuters who may confuse entrances. Deciem is opening stores in Toronto as part of an international expansion. 

We're not aware of any imminent plans to demolish/redevelop 1240 Bay Street. Given its location directly over the subway line, 1240 Bay will likely outlive most, if not all, of the properties featured in this article. 

The photo above is of the interior corridor of 1240 Bay, looking towards Bay Street from Bellair Street. Deciem is located to the right. 

6) York Square

The York Square retail development was completed in 1968, and over the years it has housed a number of prominent retailers. It originally joined together several former historical residences that were converted to commercial purposes, with a central court for stores and restaurants. A redevelopment proposal is expected to maintain some of the heritage facades of York Square, but the existing interior corridors will be reconfigured/removed in order to facilitate a large luxury residential tower that will eventually locate above. 

The photo above is the Yorkville Avenue entrance to York Square. 

Much of the retail space in the centre of York Square is currently vacant. Vidal Sassoon and Furla once had locations here. 

7) Old York Lane (Not to be Demolished)

The outdoor passageway between Cumberland Street and Yorkville Avenue has been unusually successful, housing a number of important retailers. Kate Spade occupies a two-level flagship space on the Cumberland Street side, and North America's first location for Spanish jeweller Carrera y Carrera is located mid-block. Other boutiques on Old York Lane include ça va de soi and Paris-based Tanya Heath footwear. 

Toronto's Yorkville will see considerable redevelopment over the coming years, not to mention thousands of new residents in new residential towers. We'll be periodically reporting on the neighbourhood's progress, as it transforms into Toronto's answer to London's Mayfair

Canadian Retail News From Around The Web: March 1, 2017