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

CANADIAN CITIES ARE BOOMING – ISN’T IT TIME SENIOR GOVERNMENTS DOLED OUT MORE CA$H?

census2The 2016 Census numbers are in and the metropolitan area of TORONTO has outpaced the national and provincial growth rates. Statistics Canada reports a 6.2% population increase over the last 5 years. The national rate is 5.0% and the provincial rate is 4.6%.

TORONTO1The population of the actual city of TORONTO is 2,731,571 and of the census metropolitan area 5,583,064.

Y&DSQUARE5About a third of the country’s population now lives in TORONTO, Montreal and Vancouver metropolitan areas.

The 2016 Census is telling us that Canadian cities are growing rapidly, both in their downtown cores and suburban communities.  Big city mayors have requested $12.6-billion for affordable housing, and a big slice of the federal government’s $186-billion promised for infrastructure improvements.

census1

A LITTLE GREEKTOWN HOUSE HAS TORONTO’S REAL ESTATE ‘JUNKIES’ A-TWITTER

murielhouse1Built in 1912 this modest bungalow on Muriel Avenue was purchased in 1966 for $10,000. It was assessed in 2012 for $143,000, and in 2016 for $645,000. On February 2 the ‘little-house-that-could’ sold for an astonishing $1,050,000$370,000 higher than the asking price. Hold onto your hats East Yorkers! Real estate values in your neighbourhood are about to skyrocket.

Bank of Montreal chief economist Douglas Porter argues that foreign buyers have shifted their attention from Vancouver to the Greater Toronto Area and Victoria BC. “In what is already a very tight and hot market, to add net new buyers can have a very big influence on prices. With modest employment growth, there is something else going on.”

TORONTO’S NUMBER OF LIVE-MUSIC VENUES IS SHRINKING – BUT IS THERE A NEED TO PANIC?

silver2TORONTO’s live-music venues – under pressure from boomtown construction – are struggling to survive. Both Mayor John Tory and Councillor Josse Colle “share the disapointment of musicians, fans, the music community” and say they’re working to address the problem.”

ELMOCAMBOSIGN1On the good news front, the venerable El Mocambo on Spadina is reopening. Jazz and folk outpost Hugh’s Room clings to life in the west-end, waiting to be rescued by a crowdfunding campaign. If that goes well, plans are to re-open in March as a not-for-profit. A newly renovated Velvet Underground is on the way.

hughsroom1<HUGH’S ROOM, Dundas Street West>

CAMERONHOUSE

<THE CAMERON HOUSE, Queen Street West>

grossmans1rex1The 90-year-old Cameron House seems stable. Grossman’s jazz and blues joint on Spadina and the Rex Jazz Club on Queen West are both going concerns.  <PHOTOS ABOVE>

The Hoxton is gone, along with Tattoo, the Hideout, the Tennessee (a.k.a. the old Mitzi’s Sister), the Old Laurel (a.k.a. the old Rancho Relaxo), long-running DIY space Soybomb HQ, Cabal, Cherry Cola’s and, in just the past couple of weeks, the Central.

silver4silver1The long-running Silver Dollar Room, in a heritage building on Spadina Crescent, may disappear this coming May. Student housing will soon replace the 118-year-old Waverly Hotel next door.

JOHNTORY2Mayor JOHN TORY: “It’s the bad-news side of a strongly and rapidly growing city. While there are some places being lost, there are lots of other often smaller places that are a bit more out-of-the-way that are still thriving and we want to make sure that continues to be the case.”

music1Musician PRIYA PANDA at the Cherry Coke Bar speaks out on the front page of today’s Metro. She very concerned about the disappearance of music venues and says this should be a priority at City Hall.  In other words, get on with it.