Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville is transforming to become a global retail destination. Last week, the neighbourhood came alive with the reincarnation of Toronto Fashion Week, which saw runway shows, celebrity appearances, and parties to kick off the fall season. The underlying theme for the week was Bloor-Yorkville itself, which is seeing substantial changes that will position it among some of the world’s most prestigious high-density luxury nodes, akin to Mayfair in London, Salamanca in Madrid, and the Upper East Side in New York City.
In December of 2016, developer and businessman Peter Freed announced the purchase of Toronto Fashion Week from IMG Canada Ltd. — founding sponsors included The Hazelton Hotel, Hill & Gertner Capital Corporation and First Capital Realty’s Yorkville Village.
On Tuesday September 5, Toronto Fashion Week launched with a guest appearance by designer Jean Paul Gaultier in discussion with Derek Blasberg, followed by runway shows over three days for Canadian designers including Lucian Matis, NARCES, Bustle, UNTTLD, House of Suri, Hayley Elsaesser, and Pink Tartan. We sat front row at the impressive Lucian Matis show (sponsored in part by FIJI water which just launched a new 700 ml size) where Toronto-based Matis showcased a selection of day and evening wear that is available at leading retailers such as Holt Renfrew. The Pink Tartan show was also unique — rather than a runway show with live models, Pink Tartan’s fashions were displayed on stationary mannequins, with patrons doing the walking instead of the models.
Social events included opening and closing parties for Toronto Fashion Week, as well as the unveiling of a new Salvador Dali exhibit at Yorkville Village (the first of its kind in North America, curated by Yorkville Village in partnership with Hazelton Fine Art Galleries) that features artwork for sale, and a selection of dresses from leading designers that were inspired by Dali (this exhibit is free and open to the public until September 30). The exhibit kicks off the fall unveiling of new retailers in the overhauled shopping centre formerly called Hazelton Lanes, as Yorkville finds it place as a significant luxury retail destination.
The Yorkville Village shopping centre has seen in excess of $100 million in renovations by landlord First Capital Realty, and the centre will act as an anchor for the neighbourhood as tenants continue to open their doors. Retailers such as Belstaff, Nanni Couture, Jean-Paul Fortin and Via Cavour have already ‘softly' opened/re-opened their doors, and others such as TNT Concept, Eleventy and Chase Hospitality Group’s 'Palm Lane' restaurant will open later this fall.
Belstaff is a first in Canada and a second store for the brand in North America, and Eleventy will be the Italian brand’s first freestanding store in North America — both impressive scores for Yorkville Village, as it completes a multi-year overhaul.
Part of Yorkville Village’s strategy is to be a neighbourhood hub — it has been hosting pop-up markets in its open-air ‘laneway’ facing onto Yorkville Avenue since the beginning of the summer, and these will continue every Wednesday and Saturday until the end of September. Fitness enthusiasts go to the Equinox gym and SoulCycle, a stone's throw away from the centre's 50,000 square foot Whole Foods grocery store.
As well, the centre will see regular activations as well as the addition of an art gallery, restaurant and a unique wine concept, all of which will further solidify the centre’s presence in the Yorkville community. Yorkville is growing rapidly and it benefits from being a high-density area that also boasts a significantly affluent population.
Tourists will be another draw to the area, as international luxury brands move into the Yorkville neighbourhood over the next several years. Christian Louboutin, Richard Mille, CNTRBND and Off-White all recently opened on Yorkville Avenue, and they will soon be joined by an 8,700 square foot Chanel flagship, scheduled to open in November.
On Yorkville Avenue, other confirmed tenants include Jimmy Choo, which will open a flagship next to Chanel at 102 Yorkville Avenue in early 2018, along with another soon-to-be announced luxury brand in a four-level space in the same complex that is under construction. More luxury brands will move onto Yorkville Avenue in the coming years with the building of a multi-tenant retail building at 101 Yorkville Avenue.
A block south, Cumberland Street is seeing some changes — optical retailer SEE has just opened its first Canadian store at 153 Cumberland Street, and upscale multi-brand women’s boutique Corbo Studio just relocated to 118 Cumberland Street. At the northeast corner of Cumberland Street and Avenue Road is an under-construction condominium tower that will feature several full-floor units at the top, each spanning about 8,000 square feet, with a penthouse reportedly priced at $25 million.
Bloor Street West, aka ‘the Mink Mile’, is also seeing new luxury retailers this fall. Popular fashion brand MCM has just opened its first Canadian store at 93 Bloor Street West, and in November Hermes will unveil a 12,000 square foot ‘maison’ across the street at 100 Bloor Street West. Other boutiques to open nearby include flagship locations for Dior and Moncler at 131 Bloor Street West (aka ‘The Colonnade’), which will also soon feature an impressive new location for table and giftware retailer William Ashley.
More deals are in the works for retail spaces in the immediate area, according to brokers. Menswear retailer Harry Rosen is also now renovating parts of its 82 Bloor Street West store, unveiling a series of newly renovated luxury brand boutiques with Rosen’s multi-level 55,000 square foot space.
It’s all part of a transformation of the area that will span all the way to the intersection of Yonge Street and Bloor Street, directly above Canada’s busiest subway stations. One Bloor Street East, another First Capital Realty property, will see the opening of Canada’s first Nordstrom Rack in early 2018, followed by a location for an upscale grocery store owned by celebrity chef Mark McEwan.
Across the street, Sam Mizrahi’s ‘The ONE’ at 1 Bloor Street West will soon announce tenants for its multi-level retail podium. The Manulife Centre at 55 Bloor St. W. is undergoing a $100 million+ transformation that will see a new 50,000 square foot Eataly as well as a new location for Over The Rainbow jeans, and a new space for jewellery retailer Birks — not to mention several new retailers that will soon be announced. Changes are in the works for Holt Renfrew’s flagship across the street and north of that will be another substantial redevelopment, with details to follow.
With billions of dollars being poured into the area, including several exciting new retail and residential projects, Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville is finding its place among the ‘best’ neighbourhoods in global capitals. Thousands of well-heeled residents will move into the area in the coming years, and events like Toronto Fashion Week will further position the area as a fashion destination. Toronto Fashion Week will be a bi-annual event and as such, it will lay out the red carpets and runway again in the spring of 2018. Welcome to the neighbourhood.