IN AUGUST TORONTO HOSTS THE ‘MOTHER OF ALL CONVENTIONS’ – A LIVE AUDITION FOR THE CITY

TORONTO couldn’t have asked for much more than this. It’s landed the convention every city wants – a gathering of the American Society of Association Executives. That’s the convention of convention planners, and for those in the tourism industry this is naturally a really big deal.

The Canadian tourism industry is planning to make the most of the opportunity. Tourism TORONTO has launched a campaign using phrases such as “In this city, it’s OK to let your guard down.” and “All flavours are welcome.”

TORONTO is easy to get to from almost anywhere. It’s safe, politically stable, has a healthy core, crime is relatively low, and it boasts a thriving arts, culture & restaurant scene. The city’s hospitality industry is working hard to build on these assets.

A ‘WHOPPER’ DOWNTOWN TORONTO PENTHOUSE IS UP-FOR-SALE AT A ‘WHOPPER’ PRICE

For sale a four-bedroom, 9,000 square-foot penthouse apartment in the heart of TORONTO’s Yorkville, with four separate terraces, 24-hour concierge service and it’s own elevator. Ready to move in. Its owners have begun divorce procedures.

The penthouse is on top of the 55-storey Four Seasons Private Residences Tower. But don’t get your hopes up. It’s on the market for $36-million.

WE’RE GETTING A SMART, NEW BRIDGE TO CELEBRATE THE EATON CENTRE’S 40TH ANNIVERSARY

British architectural firm WilkinsonEyre has designed a new pedestrian bridge, connecting the TORONTO Eaton Centre with Saks Fifth Avenue and the Hudson’s Bay deparment store. It should be in place by this coming fall.

WilkinsonEyre has done projects around the world. The IKEA Museum in Sweden and Guangzhou’s Financial Centre are two of them.  <RENDERINGS – CFEaton Centre>

SOUTH CORE IS NO LONGER ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE TRACKS – IT’S TORONTO’S NEW BUSINESS HUB

TORONTO‘s Financial District has outgrown Bay Street. It’s spreading towards the waterfront, south of Union Station. South Core is expecting an influx of 20,000 new office employees and close to 10,000 new residents in the immediate future. Forecasters predict the area’s population will grow 80% to 130,000 by 2031.

This new neighbourhood is giving Bay Street North a run for its money when it comes to attracting large corporate tenants. The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce recently announced that it’s moving 15,000 employees from King and Bay to new headquarters in South Core.

CIBC will join head offices for Telus, the Health Care of Ontario Pension Plan, CI Financial Corporation, and Sun Life Financial. The Royal Bank of Canada (the country’s biggest) is moving 4,000 employees to the neighbourhood; Cisco Systems Inc. has chosen South Core for its new Canadian headquarters and one of four global innovation hubs.

THOSE CLEVER SAN FRANCISCANS ARE CONVERTING AUTO-BODY SHOPS INTO SPAS AND PUBS

It takes an imaginative soul to see potential in an axle-grease-laden body shop in SAN FRANCISCO’s grubby Tenderloin at 466 Eddy Street <PHOTO ABOVE>, and turn it into a 3,200-square-foot Japanese spa & restaurant. The husband-and-wife owners told SF Weekly that in the beginning “the building was an open canvas. It was four brick walls and a hole in the ground, which meant we could make our own decisions in designing the interior space.”

The rebuild took about three years – and involved earthquake proofing, complying with the city’s fire code, police department permits, setting up a restaurant and obtaining a massage license.

Could something like this happen in TORONTO’s overheated real estate market? We certainly have a good supply of empty auto-body shops. The one above is on Gerrard Street East at Sherbourne. And below – an eyesore on Jarvis Street at Richmond, now given over to surface parking. Both are in good or developing neighbourhoods within easy walking distance of the downtown core.

Two other San Francisco auto-body shop conversions. The Standard Deviant Brewery is on 14th Street, a neighbourhood devoted to old auto-body shops <PHOTO BELOW – jubilant Standard Deviant Brewery owners after securing their lease>.

And the Volvo Centrum Shop, at 16th and Sanchez, which sold for $4.6-million in 2016 is about to become a frontispiece for a luxury apartment building with glass walls. <PHOTO BELOW>

THE CHARACTER OF OUR COMMERCIAL STREETS IS CHANGING AS CHAIN STORES MOVE IN

<Hard Rock Cafe, 1970’s, Yonge-Dundas Square>

The Hard Rock Cafe is about to become a Shoppers Drug Mart. That seems to have put at least one city councillor on alert. MIKE LAYTON doesn’t want the chains to take over, and we’re rapidly headed in that direction. Pure and simple, with sky-high rents Mom and Pop can’t afford storefront property any longer.

Mike Layton wants “to create an environment that’s more of an incubator for small-scale stores.” The downtown councillor is impressed by a SAN FRANCISCO policy called Formula Retail Use, in which chain stores face additional regulations – a more rigorous approval process, controls on matching the neighbourhood’s character and prohibitions in some areas. TORONTO’s Yonge Street can certainly use some of that right now.

<Yonge, south of Gerrard, will soon be redeveloped>

Mike Layton: “You can’t just have the same formula for every development. This isn’t saying no to chain stores, but there needs to be some local consideration.”

HONEST ED’S FAMOUS DEPARTMENT STORE IS GONE FOREVER, BUT SOMETHING NEW IS ON THE WAY

honesteds1honesteds3Crowds turned out in the thousands to say goodbye to one of TORONTO’s most iconic stores. Known far and wide, Honest Ed’s was the last major kitschy bargain emporium in the city. Shopping there was an experience.

honesteds2alley1HONEST ED ALLEY, between the main store and annex, will be gone – and with it a large-scale photo mural called “The Theatre” by Matthew Monteith of Boston.

alley3“’The Theatre’ is composed of numerous individual frames portraying the street as a continuous urban stage. It captures the vibrant, dense and theatrical nature of the neighbourhood that Honest Ed’s helped shape in its own image.” – Ilana Altman, curator

alley4alley2honesteds6“Westbank paid $72-million for the site, a big number, and yet the result is as good as private development gets in TORONTO. It features meaningful preservation of heritage buildings, a serious sustainability agenda, and affordable housing – not to mention an architectural and leasing strategy geared at making the place as lively as possible, even a bit weird.” – Alex Bozikovic, Globe and Mail