By Craig Patterson
Commercial real estate company JLL recently released a study on Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville area that provides an optimistic overview on the rapidly changing area. Industry expert Dianne Lemm, Executive Vice President of JLL’s Canadian retail division, says that she expects the area to become even more of a world-class retail node as the area transforms with an unprecedented amount of construction and new leasing activity.
That includes an overhaul to the Manulife Centre commercial podium at 55 Bloor Street West that, this fall, will see the addition of Canada’s first Eataly location. Holt Renfrew’s flagship at 50 Bloor Street West is also seeing an overhaul that includes new luxury brand shop-in-store concessions as well as a new facade that will be revealed in early 2020. Other developments in the area, including new retail space as well as the addition of thousands of new residential units, will create a world-class district that will rival the likes of Mayfair in London and surpass that of Chicago’s famed Gold Coast.
“I believe that the Bloor-Yorkville node will stand up against the leading high streets around the world,” said JLL’s Dianne Lemm. “The incredible continuing development of premium residential density in the immediate area, as well as strong tourism, should make the Bloor-Yorkville node thrive,” she added.
JLL’s Bloor-Yorkville report lays out relevant data on Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville node, noting that the luxury stretch of Bloor Street West between Yonge Street and Avenue Road boasts Canada’s highest retail lease rates, which averaged in 2018 about $325 per square foot, putting Bloor Street ahead of Robson Street in Vancouver as well as in line with upscale streets such as Newbury Street in Boston, and Lincoln Road in Miami. The only retail corridors in North America surpassing Bloor Street’s luxury run include the upper run of Fifth Avenue in New York City, the Rodeo Drive/Triangle in Beverly Hills, Union Square in San Francisco, and North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, according to JLL’s study.
“Toronto is the most active real estate city in North America with more operating tower cranes than New York, Los Angeles and Chicago combined. Considering Bloor-Yorkville’s proximity to Toronto’s wealthier neighbourhoods such as Rosedale, The Annex and Forest Hill, it is not surprising that the delta in rents between these two areas is smaller than it’s ever been”, said Tim Sanderson, Executive Vice President at JLL.
Dianne Lemm says that she expects retail rents in the area to remain strong as they increase on up-and-coming streets such as Yorkville Avenue however, we are seeing a reduction in the Net Rents as an off-set as the Realty Taxes soar in the area. On a gross basis however, the rents remain high. Luxury brands such as Chanel, Brunello Cucinelli and Versace have all opened on Yorkville Avenue, and the clustering has resulted in even more opportunities for high-end brands looking to open in the area. “The more encompassing node now includes a stronger Yorkville Village shopping complex as well as a thriving Yorkville Avenue and great retail spanning along Bloor Street West from Yonge Street to Avenue Road. There is more relevant space today than in years past, and I believe that we are on the cusp of a flood of retail leasing activity in the Bloor-Yorkville node,” Ms. Lemm went on to say.
The JLL study describes how Yorkville Avenue’s transformation kicked-off in 2016 when luxury footwear and accessory retailer Christian Louboutin opened on the street. That was soon followed by Off-White and Chanel, and more recently Brunello Cucinelli and Versace. The stretch of Yorkville Avenue between the Hazelton Hotel at 118 Yorkville Avenue and Bellair Street has seen rents nearly double over the course of three years, now averaging between $150 and $230 per square foot. First Capital Realty has been instrumental in developing Yorkville Avenue and will continue to do so with new developments at 101 Yorkville Avenue, as well as adding new tenants to the street’s former Diesel and Anthropologie storefronts.
The Mink Mile stretch of Bloor Street, between Yonge Street and Avenue Road is home to more than half of all global retailers in the node, according to the study. It encompasses almost 24% of retailers that are either classified as being luxury retailers or ‘luxury lite’. Yorkville Avenue boasts almost 20% of retailers being either luxury or ‘luxury lite’ retailers, while Cumberland Street trails the two. In the Bloor-Yorkville node, the study states that 30.2% of retailers are in the luxury price point, with a further 14.2% being ‘luxury lite’. A further 23.1% of retailers in the area are at a ‘high’ price point with the remainder being mid-priced brands including 8.6% being low priced/discount retailers. Apparel and accessories dominate the node with 37.2% of tenants, with cosmetics and beauty trailing at 23.4%. Dining is the next biggest category for the Bloor-Yorkville node, representing almost 20% of the retail mix.
Since the early 1990s, Bloor Street West has been Toronto’s primary luxury street in terms of brands opening flagship stores. Yorkville Avenue is giving it a run for its money as of late. Some industry professionals compare Bloor Street West to New York City’s Fifth Avenue or Chicago’s North Michigan Avenue ‘Magnificent Mile’, while Yorkville Avenue has been compared to Madison Avenue in New York City or Oak Street in Chicago.
“Luxury brands are choosing both Bloor Street and Yorkville Avenue to open flagship stores. Yorkville Avenue is able to provide some freestanding, build-to-suit opportunities that have been attractive to some luxury brands on a street that provides a more intimate, boutique environment. The more conventional retail at the base of office and residential buildings is the more typical format along Bloor Street”, Ms. Lemm said.
Bloor-Yorkville will see the addition of a considerable amount of new retail space north of Holt Renfrew’s flagship, which includes new mixed-use developments along Cumberland Street and Yorkville Avenue between Yonge Street and Bay Street. The JLL study notes that these projects will add about 270,000 square feet of new retail space to the existing 2.2 million square feet of retail space in the core. Opportunities for a range of retailers, including luxury and more affordable options, could see the area become a major shopping draw. Kingsett Capital will overhaul the Cumberland Terrace complex at 2 Bloor Street West, for example, which will add new retail space as well as three towers with office and residential units, and a public square in the renamed ‘Cumberland Square’.
“I expect that there will be a continuation of luxury, ‘affordable luxury’, and globally recognized street brands that will move into the area, as well as incredible food and beverage offerings. There’s a possibility that on the east end of the node, some of the popular Asian brands and disruptor brands entering the market will locate in that area of the Bloor-Yorkville node, as they may not be able to pay the asking rents for the 50-yard line opportunities nearby,” said Ms. Lemm.
Not all of the retailers in the Bloor-Yorkville node are luxury brands. Vancouver-based women’s fashion retailer Artizia recently unveiled an impressive expanded flagship store near the Yonge and Bloor intersection that includes a coffee concept with its own entrance onto Bloor Street. Ms. Lemm represents Aritzia and assisted in the negotiation of the lease deal for the store’s expansion.
Holt Renfrew’s overhauled 190,000 square foot flagship store will act as a significant anchor to the Bloor-Yorkville district when it’s completed early next year. The Bloor Street Holt Renfrew store includes the company’s corporate offices that are located in the adjacent 60 Bloor Street West office tower that is owned and operated by Morguard.
When the 50 Bloor Street West Holt Renfrew store opened in 1979, it included approximately 100,000 square feet over three levels. Ms. Lemm described how the store has expanded and how its latest renovation will bring good things. “Holt Renfrew’s Bloor Street flagship had grown organically as adjacencies became available and while it has been a very successful store, the shopping experience felt disjointed with a challenging flow. This opportunity to expand and reset the store, including adding beauty on the lower level and the procurement of even stronger and more premium concession brands, should provide for an incredible shopping environment,” she said. “The updated store will drive a wider trade area, will attract more tourists, and thus is expected to result in higher sales productivity,” she went on to say.
Eataly’s highly anticipated 50,000 square foot three-level ‘grocerant’ concept is expected to be wildly popular and is expected to drive a considerable amount of foot traffic to the area. It’s also expected to become a catalyst for other retailers looking at moving into the area.
Ms. Lemm said, “I cannot think of a time when I have visited New York City, time permitting, that I have not made my way to the Eataly location in the Flatiron District since it opened in 2010. I expect that Eataly on Bloor Street will attract a great domestic and international tourist traffic to the area”.
The JLL study, which was prepared by JLL’s Canadian research team, provides an informative overview of the upscale shopping node. More than 500 retailers can be found in the area (both on streets as well as in the area’s above and below-ground shopping centres) and many of the retailers in the area operate flagship locations.
The high-quality retail in the area “has attracted Hollywood celebrities, wealthy Chinese tourists and New York fashionistas looking for a true luxury shopping experience,” according to the study.
Bloor-Yorkville has come a long way from its counterculture days in the 1960s and 1970s when it was known to be a hangout for beatniks and then the epicentre for the Canadian ‘hippie movement’. Now, one is more likely to see affluent shoppers descend on the area looking for the latest fashions from brands such as Chanel, Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Dior.
Christian Dior’s confidence in the Bloor-Yorkville node is evident with the recent opening of its jaw-dropping 13,300 square foot two-level flagship store at The Colonnade at 131 Bloor Street West. It’s the largest Dior flagship in North America and carries the brand’s full assortment of fashions for men and women that include ready-to-wear, footwear, accessories, bags and other items. It’s also the first Dior store in North America to carry the brand’s home furnishings collection, which is found in only a handful of Dior stores globally. JLL’s Dianne Lemm co-brokered the Dior deal with Hanna Struever of Retail Portfolio Solutions.
Dior also recently opened a new accessory boutique at Holt Renfrew’s Bloor Street flagship, which also recently saw the addition of main-floor leased concessions for brands including Gucci, David Yurman, Balenciaga, Burberry, Gucci, and Bulgari. Miu Miu and Bottega Veneta concessions are also on the way, joining a ‘world of’ concessions for Fendi and Saint Laurent, both of which opened last year and measure nearly 3,000 square feet each.
Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville Area is home to several top-notch luxury hotels including the global flagship for the Four Seasons chain, as well as the intimate and super-exclusive Hazelton Hotel. At the southwest corner of Yonge Street and Bloor Street, as well, will be Mizrahi Development’s ‘The ONE’ development that will include an Andaz hotel and more than 400 luxury condominium residences, with prices for penthouses said to exceed $30 million each. When completed in 2022, ‘The ONE’ will be Canada’s tallest building with 85 floors rising over 1,000 feet above the iconic intersection, and will include a yet-to-be-named retailer at its base.
The JLL study provides details on the massive investments in the Bloor-Yorkville area that will result in a “sleeker, busier and more sophisticated luxury corridor in the heart of the city”. The study notes that there are currently 12 large-scale construction projects underway within the corridor, and another 11 proposed projects in the pipeline waiting for city approval. Incredibly, the projects currently in the construction pipeline will more than double the residential population in the area, according to the study.
Household incomes in the Bloor-Yorkville area are 171% higher than in the metropolitan Toronto area, according to the study, with average household incomes surpassing $300,000 annually. The average selling price for a new three-bedroom condominium in Bloor-Yorkville is approximately $6.5 million, or $2,200 per square foot. As of June, more than 90% of the units under construction in the area had already been pre-sold.
The study discusses several developments in the works, including Oxford Properties’ Park Hyatt redevelopment that will include an upgraded hotel component as well as a new luxury residential rental building which will be located in the historic south tower at the northwest corner of Bloor Street West and Avenue Road. Included in the development will be about 33,000 square feet of retail space.
Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, located at Highway 401 and Allen Road, has seen many first-to-Canada store openings which includes an impressive clustering of luxury brands. JLL’s Dianne Lemm says that there’s room for at least two luxury nodes in the Toronto market, with Bloor-Yorkville finding its place with a point of differentiation being its urban street-front character. “With the densification of the Toronto market and the strong tourist demographic, there is room for two successful premium luxury shopping nodes in our city,” she said.
To download JLL’s Bloor-Yorkville Corridor Report, please click here
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd. Email Craig: firstname.lastname@example.org