Photo Tour: Yorkville Area in Toronto During the Lockdown, Big Changes to Come

Retail Insider recently did a photo tour of Toronto’s Yorkville area which is almost entirely shut down until later this month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are a lot of changes happening in the area and the following is an update on what’s happening and what’s to come.

When stores reopened in the spring after the first shutdown, The Bloor-Yorkville area was remarkably busy with lineups outside of some stores. Part of the attraction of Yorkville is the restaurants, not to mention beauty services for some of Toronto’s wealthiest residents.

Fast forward to December, and the neighbourhood is much quieter. The Ontario government mandated that as of November 23, retailers deemed ‘non-essential’ would have to shut for 28 days as part of an effort to reduce daily infection rates. There’s been a huge push by retailers large and small to reopen things sooner given the lack of proof that retail is a significant spreader of the coronavirus.

Back to the tour – we start at the corner of Avenue Road and Cumberland Street, which is seeing significant construction as per the photo below.

Cumberland Street. Photo: Dustin Fuhs

On the left in this photo is the new re-imagining of the Park Hyatt hotel, which has delayed opening until 2021. Included will be a new two-level retail component as well as a large Japanese restaurant, a pricey rental apartment building, and a newly rebuilt hotel with a Morton’s steak house facing Prince Arthur Avenue. Directly in front of us is Cumberland at Yorkville Plaza, a 40-storey condominium tower which has been under construction since 2012. The 8,000-square-foot penthouse was asking $25 million several years ago.

Yorkville Lane. Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Yorkville Lane, formerly known as Renaissance Court, recently re-opened after a renovation that saw new shops such as DICE Fruit Bar & Cafe and Zaza join classic staples of the neighbourhood like Alobar and B Hemmings & Co. which we featured in 2018.

Nearby at 154 Cumberland Street, two-level Kibo Secret Garden opened in October of this year. One reader said that the food is excellent at the restaurant that features an omakase menu.

Nespresso Yorkville. Photo by Dustin Fuhs

The massive Nespresso space at 159 Cumberland Street, near Avenue Road, was for sublease a couple of years ago and is expected to eventually close. Nespresso remained open and will hopefully remain in the neighbourhood for the time being.

Cumberland Street. Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Immediately east of Nespresso is a row of stores on Cumberland Street including Canada’s first SEE eyewear store, luxury fashion retailer Nicolas, Aveda, and Lululemon. When stores were open, the Lululemon store often had lineups of customers waiting to get in. Aveda, owned by Estée Lauder, recently converted Canada’s Aveda stores to a corporately-owned model after parting ways with a licensee that ran the operations for about 25 years.

Cumberland Street. Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Fortunately some retailers survived the first lockdown and a challenging retail environment that has ensued. Kate Spade operates a two-level store on Cumberland Street and women’s retailer Avec Paisir maintains its presence next to it.

More Storefronts on Cumberland Street: There have been some vacancies recently on Cumberland Street, and some movements. Upscale second-hand watch retailer Watchfinder, which was operating in a lower-level retail space at 128E Cumberland Street, is moving to a street level space recently vacated by upscale women’s fashion retailer Corbo Studio.

Sassafraz. Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Sassafraz, one of the go-to restaurants in Yorkville, has taken steps to rebrand as a curbside pick-up dining location.

The Minto Yorkville. Photo by Dustin Fuhs

The Minto Yorkville Park Condos, which by the way has a “walk-score” of 100, is a condo development that is 25-storeys and has a surprise for a new tenant on retail level. Cannabis retailer Tokyo Smoke is said to have leased the corner space and two other retailers were recently in negotiation to open next to it. The 94 Cumberland Street retail podium spans just over 5,000 square feet in total and it was originally leased to a single.

Pink Tartan at the Corner of Bellair Street and Yorkville Avenue recently shut down. It was recently that we spotted packing boxes inside. The 3,500-square-foot retail space at 77 Yorkville Avenue will become home to an Italian luxury brand in 2021.

Kumari’s Bloor-Yorkville is an upscale women’s clothing store specializing in elegant cashmere shawls, scarves, and jewelry. On this day, we spotted an impressive display of face-coverings as a window display.

Yorkville Avenue. Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Yorkville Avenue will be seeing significant changes in the years to come. A fire in 2014 destroyed a 150 year old building at 84 Yorkville Avenue that housed optical retailer Cutler & Gross. First Capital Realty owns the site and is looking to redevelop it, possibly for luxury retail as has been the trend on the street.

Yorkville Avenue. Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Iconic Toronto entrepreneur Russell Oliver, aka ‘The Cashman’, will open a luxury second-hand fashion boutique at 86 Yorkville Avenue in 2021. We’ll be sure to cover the opening following our coverage of his Oliver Jewellery location that opened a few blocks away on Yonge Street in the fall of 2016.

Mr Brainwash Pop Up . Photo by Dustin Fuhs

The Mr Brainwash Pop Up was to be co-hosted by Taglialatella Galleries and Ink Entertainment from October 1 to December 31 and can be visited at 87 Yorkville Avenue, but with the latest lockdown restrictions it will be up in the air if it will ever reopen.

99 Yorkville Avenue. Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Sheng Tang Peony and the Candle Emporium are both tenants next to the art gallery pop-up — we featured Sheng Tang Peony in an article when it opened in the spring of 2019.

101 Yorkville Avenue. Photo by Dustin Fuhs

101 Yorkville Avenue was set to be demolished and replaced with a mixed-use building that would have included flagship retail spaces for luxury brands. First Capital Realty is now selling the site and it’s unclear what it’s future might be in light of the development.

Nobis Yorkville . Photo by Dustin Fuhs

The back end of the Nobis store that faces onto Hazelton Avenue – the photo was taken from the stairway leading into Yorkville Village. The store opened in December of 2017.

Yorkville Avenue. Photo by Dustin Fuhs

The photo above is part of the ‘luxury run’ of Yorkville Avenue. Chanel opened its 8,700-square-foot flagship at 98 Yorkville Avenue in November of 2017. Next to it was a Diesel store which shut last year. First Capital Realty owns the Diesel space and has been talking to luxury brands interested in being next to Chanel.

Yorkville Village. Photo by Dustin Fuhs

The Yorkville Avenue entrance to Yorkville Village, formerly Hazelton Lanes. First Capital Realty invested over $100 million to overhaul the shopping centre which has struggled to maintain foot traffic in recent years.

Yorkville Village Interior Holiday Display. Photo by Dustin Fuhs

The above photo is the ‘Oval’ at the Yorkville Village shopping centre. A Volvo-owned Polstar showroom will open inside later this month and Couple Diamonds recently opened its first permanent store in the world at the centre as well.

We had a very interesting photo walk around Yorkville, and we hope you enjoyed coming along with us. Remember to stop by the area to check out the new Urban Campfire benches. Next week we’ll feature Toronto’s Bloor Street West, aka the ‘Mink Mile’ in a separate tour.

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
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.

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7 COMMENTS

    • I don’t believe that it has been leased yet. Many brands have toured the space. I would expect a major luxury brand to take the entire space (or half) given the proximity to Chanel.

  1. You didn’t mention the recently opened two-level KIBO SECRET GARDEN upscale sushi restaurant at 154 Cumberland – it’s terrific. Best sushi I have ever had.

    • I’ll add this in! Secret garden indeed, I did’t know it was there and I live at Cumberland and Bellair — I’ll be sure to try it!

  2. A great tour, enjoyable read, thank you. Having spent decades in the area from 1962 to 2002, the area has weathered many storms and still has a wonderful future. Change will make Yorkville and area, even better.

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