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.