Considered to be the hub for all things luxury, Yorkville is our city’s answer to New York’s famed 5th Avenue and London’s Bond Street. It is recognized as one of Canada’s most exclusive shopping streets. Upscale Bloor Street, the main shopping avenue, vies nationally with Vancouver’s Robson Street. In 2006, both were the 22nd most expensive streets in the world, with rents of $208 per square foot. Yorkville now commands rents of $300 per square foot, making it the 3rd most expensive retail space in North America. Bloor St. was recently named the 7th most expensive shopping street in the world by Fortune Magazine, claiming tenants can pull in $1,500 to $4,500 per square foot in sales. But despite currently being high-end, its history and culture haven’t always been that way. Its past has been rich, and its evolution into what it is now has been nothing short of spectacular. From shopping in the most pretigious stores in the world, to sitting at a patio and people/car watching…Yorkville offers a slice of the high life.
the early days:
Founded in 1830 by entrepreneur Joseph Bloor (after whom Bloor Street, one of Toronto’s main thoroughfares, is named) and William Botsford Jarvis of Rosedale, Toronto, the Village of Yorkville began as a residential suburb. Its Victorian-style homes, quiet residential streets, and picturesque gardens survived into the 20th century, when it was annexed by the City of Toronto.
In the 1960s, Yorkville flourished as Toronto’s bohemian cultural centre. It was the breeding ground for some of Canada’s most noted musical talents, including Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Gordon Lightfoot, as well as then-underground literary figures such as Margaret Atwood, Gwendolyn MacEwen and Dennis Lee. Yorkville was also known as the Canadian capital of the hippie movement. In 1968, nearby Rochdale College at the University of Toronto was opened on Bloor Street as an experiment in counterculture education. Those influenced by their time in 1960s-70s Yorkville include cyberpunk writer William Gibson.
the shift towards luxury:
After the construction of the Bloor-Danforth subway the value of land nearby increased as higher densities were allowed by the City’s official plan. Along Bloor Street, office towers, the Bay department store and the Holt Renfrew department store displaced the local retail. As real estate values increased in the 1980s and the 1990s, the residential homes north of Bloor along Yorkville were converted into high-end retail, including many art galleries, fashion boutiques and antique stores, and popular bars, cafes and eateries along Cumberland Street and Yorkville Avenue. Many buildings were demolished and condominium developments built. To further the retail and commercial attractiveness of the area is the fact that the busiest TTC subway station in the city is located at Yonge and Bloor. It is the intersection of the two largest and busiest subway lines, the Bloor line and the Yonge line. The station approximately serves 368,000 people per day. The counter-culture moved to the Queen Street West neighbourhood which had much lower rents and real estate values.
Today, some of the city’s most exclusive retail stores line its streets, including Lux Spa, Prada, Gucci, MAC Cosmetics, Hugo Boss, Chanel, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Holt Renfrew, Tiffany & Co., Escada, Cartier SA, Harry Rosen, Cole Haan, Vera Wang, Lacoste, Ferrari, Maserati, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Williams-Sonoma, Bang and Olufsen, Betsey Johnson, Max Mara, Mont Blanc, Bulgari, Henry Birks & Sons, Coach, Guerlain, Swarovski and other upscale designer boutiques. The Holt Renfrew store on Bloor is the luxury retailer’s flagship and largest store with 4 floors. Other flagships include Harry Rosen, Town Shoes and Coach. With many retailers becoming outdated, many are completing renovations, including the previously mentioned Harry Rosen. The recently renovated Chanel store is one of the largest of its kind in the world. Hermès just opened their newly renovated store and Prada has also doubled their boutique size by acquiring the vacant adjacent space and now offers their men’s collection. DKNY and Crate and Barrel sought Bloor St. locations, but, DKNY could not find one and Crate and Barrel refused to take an available second-floor space. Browns Shoes opened on Bloor, with merchandise that is much more expensive than at their other boutiques. Wolfgang Puck is opening one of his first Canadian restaurants above the Colonnade. Burberry is also planning an October opening of their first free-standing shop in Toronto. There have been rumours circulating that Bottega Veneta and Fendi were in midst of acquiring their own retail space on Bloor Street as well.
In recent years, mid-market retailers have also begun to locate along Bloor. In 2005, Winners and La Senza opened stores in prime locations, later followed by French Connection, Puma, Aldo, Aritzia, Club Monaco, Banana Republic, American Apparel, Roots Canada, Guess, Nike, Zara, Roots, Lululemon, Sephora, Gap and H&M. Bloor Yorkville has been recognized as one of the most luxurious shopping streets in North America, being compared to New York’s Fifth Avenue, Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, and Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive. Demand is still high on Bloor St., according to real estate firm, Cushman and Wakefield. 5 years ago, retail space rents were $110 per square foot. Although, last year’s Cushman and Wakefield report indicate rents of $198 per square foot, their Q407 Toronto Retail Report mentions current deals reaching $300 per square foot, making Bloor St. the third most expensive retail street in North America. This has led to higher rents on Cumberland St. and Yorkville Ave., with several new developments asking $125 per square foot. Expensive Indian fashion boutique INDIVA, which moved to a smaller boutique on Yorkville Ave., claims that the monthly rent at their previous location was $85,000. Many independent retailers struggle to meet these demands, and many in past years have closed or relocated to other streets. However, it is estimated that some retailers pull in more than $2000 per square foot in sales.
Yorkville is known for upscale shopping, restaurants, and the first five star hotel in Canada, becoming an excellent place for celebrity-spotting, especially in the Hazelton Lanes shopping complex. Most recently, however, the celebrities once seen during the Toronto International Film Festival have migrated elsewhere and are now most often seen in the entertainment district bars and after-hour clubs near the CITY-TV building. Yorkville still remains the top celebrity hangout in Toronto, and celebrities are seen throughout the year.
Luxury hotels in Yorkville include the Four Seasons, the Park Hyatt, the Hazelton Hotel, the Windsor Arms Hotel, the Residence on Bay and the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel.
There are also many offices and professional services. Notable companies/organizations include the Retail Council of Canada, Canada Post, IBM Canada, Alliance Atlantis, Famous Players, Paramount Pictures, Showcase Television, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, and various consulate generals.
Famed restaurants Sassafraz, Prego Della Piazza and Vaticano are located in Yorkville. Sassafraz underwent a full restoration and reopened in September 2007. The MTV Canada headquarters are located in Yorkville as well. Canada’s largest museum and the fifth largest in North America, the Royal Ontario Museum is located at the intersection of Bloor and Avenue Rd. The area north of Bloor St. on Cumberland and Yorkville contain petite streets with cafes, restaurants and specialty boutiques. It resembles more of a European style district.
Yorkville is also home to some of Toronto’s most expensive condominium most starting at over one million dollars and going well beyond, including: The Prince Arthur, Renaissance Plaza, 10 Bellair, One St. Thomas, Windsor Arms Hotel, The Hazelton Hotel & Residences, Hazelton Lanes, 110 Bloor Street West, 102 Bloor Street West and 1166 Bay St. Several new projects are underway in the area including the flagship Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residencesas well as a landmark development at the corner of Bloor and Yonge Streets known as 1 Bloor which, at 80 storeys in height, will be the tallest residential building in Canada.
bloor street transformation project
“The Bloor-Yorkville BIA has partnered with the City of Toronto to completely transform and re-invigorate the corridor of Bloor Street between Church Street and Avenue Road. There are many exciting upgrades coming — and they are already underway! The BIA kicked off the Bloor Street Transformation Project with Mayor David Miller, Toronto Councillor Kyle Rae and many Bloor Street business owners at a groundbreaking ceremony held on July 9th, 2008.
In the fall of 2007, City contractors began replacing the antiquated water main system along Bloor Street. With that work completed, construction on the Bloor Street Transformation Project has begun to beautify and completely revamp Bloor-Yorkville’s beloved fashion mile. The transformation will be phased in over 2.5 years with completion expected by the end of 2010.
Rather than replacing the boulevards with the standard concrete curbs and sidewalks, Bloor Street will boast extensive tree plantings in innovative and sustainable soil cell systems, widened granite sidewalks, seasonal flowerbeds and attractive up-lighting for each tree. The new Bloor Street design, created by Peter Clewes of Architects Alliance, will make the already popular shopping district a world-class and welcoming place to see and be seen. The elegant upgrades to the final finish are being funded by the Bloor Street businesses.
The result will be an inviting, vibrant commercial street that is pedestrian-friendly and provides a stimulating oasis for those who live, work and shop in the area. Bloor Street will establish itself as one of the most exciting must visit streets in the world!” Bloor-Yokville BIA
Yorkville Park is a series of unique gardens located on the south side of Cumberland stretching west from Bellair. It was designed by Oleson Worland Architects in association with Martha Schwartz, Ken Smith, David Meyer Landscape Architects to celebrate the surrounding neighbourhood and reflect the diversity of the Canadian landscape.
At one end, a paved square of land is dotted with Scot’s pines growing out of circular benches. Further west, is a set of metal archways among a row of crab apple trees. Next, there’s a marshy wetland. A silver-coloured metal structure houses a waterfall bordering one side of a courtyard filled with benches and chairs, while a 650-tonne hunk of billion-year-old granite, cut out of the Canadian Shield and transported to the park in pieces, forms the other border. The park has received the American Survey of Landscape Architects Award.
toronto international film festival – september 10 2009 to september 19 2009:
“The Toronto International Film Festival ranks among the most prestigious international film festivals in the world. For ten days, film lovers, filmmakers, industry professionals and media watch the best in new cinema from established masters and new talent.
- Presents one of the world’s largest annual showcases of Canadian film with the Canada First!, Short Cuts Canada and Canadian Open Vault programmes.
- received 4,209 submissions and screened 312 films (2008 figures).
- has 17 programmes in which films from 64 countries are screened (2008 figures).
- presents two public screenings of virtually every invited film and at least one screening for press and industry.
- accredits over 1,000 international media.
- attracts thousands of Canadian and international industry delegates.
As one of the world’s most important cultural events, the Festival consistently strives to set the standard for excellence in film programming. Audiences are exposed to the work of emerging talent and masters of the cinema craft from around the world.
The Festival also serves as a platform for this country’s artists to share their stories. Audacious in its selection and supported by the strength and intelligence of its international audience, the Festival has become the landmark destination for the moving image – and is forging ahead, seeking new ways to engineer creative and cultural discovery through film.
The level of engagement the Festival sustains from year to year is unique. Enthusiastic audiences and filmmakers are privy to unprecedented levels of access to one another as they exchange ideas about the art and business of filmmaking.
Up-and-coming Canadian filmmakers gain unparalleled insight into the workings of the international market. Media from around the globe converge on the Festival, creating buzz and stirring excitement over films and the talent behind them. Film buyers and other industry professionals, meanwhile, can choose from extensive additional screenings and specialized industry programming that empower them to make informed business decisions for days and months ahead. The Festival also provides excellent resources and networking opportunities for film-industry professionals and buyers.
From the efficiency and dedication of the Festival’s staff and volunteers to its vast contribution to the culture and economy of the City of Toronto, the Toronto International Film Festival has earned its long-standing reputation as a leader in the international film community.” TIFF
bloor yorkville holiday magic – november 22 2009 through january 2010:
“Each year Holiday Magic on Bloor-Yorkville transforms this Toronto neighbourhood into a winter wonderland! An official lighting ceremony signals the start of the holiday season with a spectacular Christmas tree and shop windows twinkling into the white nights.”