Bloor Street Update: What’s on the Way for Toronto’s Luxury Run? [Podcast]

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Craig and Lee talk about retail on Bloor Street in downtown Toronto, including the new temporary Fabricland store where H&M was, as well as new big brands and luxury brands that will be opening this year nearby.

The Weekly podcast by Retail Insider Canada is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or through our dedicated RSS feed for Overcast and other podcast players. Also check out our The Interview Series podcast where Craig interviews guests from across the Canadian retail landscape as part of the The Retail Insider Podcast Network.

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Transcript

Announcer 0:00
This is a Retail Insider podcast. You’re listening to “The Weekly”.

Lee Rivett 0:08
Welcome to this week’s episode of “The Weekly” by Retail Insider. I’m Lee Rivett and I’m joined with the owner and publisher of Retail Insider Media, Craig Patterson, to discuss this week’s most read articles on retail-insider.com. So thanks for joining me, Craig!

Craig Patterson 0:22
Hello, everyone.

Lee Rivett 0:23
There’s a number of changes unfolding on Bloor Street in downtown Toronto over the last while that we wanted to cover during this podcast. For those of us who aren’t as familiar, Bloor Street is in downtown Toronto in the upscale Yorkville shopping district. In my mind’s eye, I can see it between Yonge Street and Avenue Road. It was often in the past called “The Mink Mile”. Since you’ve been living there for quite some time, Craig, you’re our absolute resident expert on Bloor Street. So where would you like to take us first?

Craig Patterson 0:56
Well, I wanted to give a little bit of an update on Bloor Street specifically. We call it “The Luxury Run” and it used to be called “The Mink Mile”. One of our stories which got all kinds of reactions was that Fabricland is going to be moving into the former H&M space, which is located at 15 Bloor Street West.

Lee Rivett 1:14
Yeah, I was surprised didn’t see that coming.

Craig Patterson 1:16
Quite an interesting movement, I think because the store is going to be located right next to a building called “The One” which will have some apartments that are currently for sale near the top of the building close to $40 million each and the door into that building is going to be located right next to Fabricland. So you have Fabricland on one side, and I’m assuming an Apple store on the other. It’s been out in the press now in the news that this is happening. Hopefully there was some litigation but we’re all praying that Apple still opens right at the corner of Yonge and Bloor at one Bloor Street West.

Lee Rivett 1:44
But there’s some other stuff happening there besides the Apple potential, right?

Craig Patterson 1:48
So I want to just hop across Young Street quickly on Bloor just to quickly talk about that because we just saw some construction hoarding and going up for a LensCrafters store. I mean, that’s not the most exciting announcement but nevertheless at 33 Bloor Street East that’s going to be opening there next to Cafe Landour, which I actually enjoy. It’s a great restaurant from think Tel Aviv across the street is the Hudson’s Bay Centre and I’m not sure what it’s called right now because the Hudson Bay store itself closed and there’s going to be a major redevelopment happening there and we don’t have all the details but there’s a W Hotel. Now right at the corner of Yonge and Bloor at one Bloor Street East is currently a Nordstrom Rack store. Of course, it’s no secret at this point that Nordstrom is going to be vacating Canada, which means that the store is going to have to close. So Dustin, our editor in chief, Dustin Fuhs and I had a nice meeting with First Capital Realty recently, and we were just discussing what could maybe go in there, but nothing’s confirmed yet. It’s just too soon. And no tenants have been secured regardless. But some big things are going to be happening. They’re at the one Bloor Street East.

Craig Patterson 1:48
So what’s happening west of Yonge Street on Bloor.

Craig Patterson 1:50
Now west of Yonge Street, there’s some interesting stuff happening we reported a few months ago that Lululemon is going to be opening this large three story flagship store right at the corner. So this is going to be super-duper prominent, you’re going to have I’m assuming, hopefully apple on one corner, you’re going to have whatever’s replacing Nordstrom Rack on the other corner, whatever is going to be going on at the Hudson’s Bay Centre. There’s big stuff coming and then you’ve got this Lululemon flagship store that’s going to be open, I think at the end of this year, is what they were saying. I mean, it depends on construction. But that was we were told before so it could be early 2024. Hopefully not too long. But then you have Fabricland. But I wanted to take listeners up the street basically with just with some information on what’s happening. Unfortunately, just given the time of this recording, I’m not allowed to say all the tenants that are coming in, but I am quite aware. So in a real summary, I would say things are not bad on Bloor Street, even if it looks like there’s lots of vacancies and whatnot. Well, things are spoken for. And people just don’t know that yet. So and I don’t even know 100% everything that’s happening. There’s something big happening that I will touch on but be very vague about.

Craig Patterson 3:57
A few retailers did shut down during the pandemic on Bloor Street. Fossil left its space in the Holt Renfrew Centre, which faces on to Bloor Street. I believe that still release but I know that the former main floor of the Zara space has been leased to a very well known retailer that I’m not allowed to name yet, but it’s quite an exciting announcement. So we’ll be announcing that on Retail Insider soon. Another retailer I’m not allowed to name it yet. But it’s Canadian, will be opening next to the current location for Saint Laurent. So it Holt Renfrew has a Saint Laurent boutique with its own door. And then at 60 Bloor Street West, you’ve got Alo Yoga and this retailer is going to be taking that 3800 square foot space between those two. And again, I think this is going to be a great addition to the neighborhood.

Lee Rivett 4:45
And what about Holt Renfrew itself?

Craig Patterson 4:47
During the pandemic got a new façade which is quite interesting. It looks a bit like the Nordstrom store at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre. The first floor was the renovation was completed during the pandemic. There was I think 12 luxury brand concessions there so it’s almost like a shopping mall, prefer Gucci and Fendi and Dior and David Yurman and Balenciaga and a bunch of other brands, some of which may not be there in a few months. I don’t know if Balenciaga is going to stay, but I think they’re right now. And the second floor is still under renovation. It’s been partially reopened with a new boutique for Chanel, and Celine and a beautiful spot for Gucci. There’s this really Instagrammable space for stylist and anyone to try stuff on called “The Studio”. There’s going to be more coming on that floor as well. So Holt Renfrew, this is their I call it “The Mothership” because it’s the flagship of flagships. It’s their Toronto location. The headquarters are in the office building a 60 floor connected to it, essentially. So there’s going to be some movement there.

Lee Rivett 5:43
And Holts has a separate men’s store that’s not connected to the mothership that’s further down on Bloor Street, right?

Craig Patterson 5:50
Right now, at 100 Bloor Street West, is a standalone Holt Renfrew men store. It’s about 16,000 square feet or so. And it’s going to be moving to the third floor of the Holt Renfrew store, which is the top floor. And so I actually did write this article, but then I spoke to some sales associates and they were giving me some more information. It sounds like Tom Ford is going to be a one of the luxury brands coming in. And that menswear will occupy about two thirds of the third floor of the Holt Renfrew mothership, if we want to call it that.

Lee Rivett 6:26
Well with the entire men’s store location and from offsite coming back into “The Mothership”, is there anything being displaced in “The Mothership” that we should talk about? Because that’s a lot of stuff that needs to find a new home if it’s displacing something, or is it just empty space that’s currently used for storage?

Craig Patterson 6:45
it’s actually all women’s contemporary fashions. So that might be smaller in terms of square footage. But what I was told I was asking some questions afterwards. And apparently, there’s some office and storage space in the back – quite a bit of it on the third floor that can be repurposed for retail. So they’re looking at moving some stuff into the adjacent office tower, perhaps it’s going to be some offices or storage or something. I’m not quite sure what we’ll find out. But yes, there is going to be more space, but that floor is less than 30,000 square feet. So it’s still not gigantic in comparison. I mean, maybe it’s too large, but the men’s floor at Holt Renfrew Ogilvy in Montreal is about 40,000 square feet. But it’s also very spacious. I mean, they probably don’t need that much space, especially in Montreal, because the sales aren’t quite as high as Toronto or Vancouver. But nevertheless, I mean, Holt Renfrew Ogilvy will be spectacular. But Holt, Renfrew probably doesn’t need a 40,000 square foot men’s store that’s quite big. So Harry Rosen, I think has about that much space, though, which is at 82 Bloor Street West. We’ll be talking about that one shortly. And now I had been told before the pandemic that Holt Renfrew had been looking at expanding women’s contemporary into this actual – there’s about 30,000 square feet of unused space within the store that’s located below the shoe floor, which is known as ‘the mezzanine’ and above the main floor, which has the luxury concessions, so that as of yet is not being part of this renovation. But at some point, it may be used, maybe they’ll just use it for storage forever. I don’t know. But it’s a lot of space. So I’m sure something at some point is going to happen there. So Holt Renfrew has definitely been doing lots of upgrades to it store and these will continue on until 2025 probably because that’s when we’re the men’s store should open I think in late 2024. But we’ll see where the construction goes and whatnot. I mean, we know there’s always going to be some delays.

Lee Rivett 8:41
When I take a look at the new Alo Yoga location, which is smushed right up next to “The Mothership” of Holt Renfrew. There’s some interesting stuff happening at the Bay and Bloor intersection as well. Do you want to hop into that next?

Craig Patterson 8:53
Now, Alo Yoga I mentioned that one before at 60 Blur Street West at the corner of Bay and Bloor. I’ve been told the sales are actually very good. Alo Yoga is expanding, it’s going to start Yorkdale it’s building one of the CF Toronto Eaton Centre, and then there’s a Birks jewelry store at the Manulife Centre. I won’t go into the Manulife Centre too much on what’s going on there. It’s quite easily upstairs but Birks is there. There is a Van Cleef and Arpels boutique connected to Birks that’s licensed and I doubt it would stay open. To be honest, Van Cleef and Arpels is currently building a store 200 Bloor Street West and I’ll go into that a bit more because I wanted to keep this discussion kind of moving westward along the street.

Lee Rivett 9:30
Perfect. So continuing along with our Bloor Street trip, we are now crossing over Bay Street. So I think you have a couple articles that happened here as well. Right?

Craig Patterson 9:39
Now when Bay Street I wrote an article about Hakeem Optical, that store had closed for non-payment of rent and the store has since reopened. But only temporarily. Something big is going to be happening at that corner and I’ll leave it at that. I’m not going to say anything else, but that’s going to be one to watch. So, next to that is an office building and a Harry Rosen store. So there’s 80 Bloor Street West, which is an office building, it’s got a Roots store in it as well – as well it used to be Banana Republic and there’s a Good Life Fitness up there and some offices. And that at 82 Bloor street west facing onto Bellaire Street is the Harry Rosen flagship store. So at some point in the future, these buildings will be demolished. It’s been approved for a new tall tower, I believe it’s 72 floors, but we should probably chat with the people at Harry Rosen and just see, you know, whenever that store has to move, or relocate, what are they planning to do? I don’t know, when are they moving back into that building? Because I looked at some plans couple years ago, and it looked like they had a good 30,000 square foot retail space in there. So maybe that’s where Harry Rosen will be moving back into?

Lee Rivett 10:37
I don’t know…

Craig Patterson 10:38
I don’t know. But like, that’s just totally my speculation. Don’t hold me to that anyone listening to this. I am just guessing at this point, because I didn’t ask the question. So I probably should. But you know, all in all, in due course.

Lee Rivett 10:49
Well, and across the street, there’s also a development application that’s going on and that’s across from Harry Rosen at Bloor and Bay, right?

Craig Patterson 10:57
So there is a proposal to do a tower there. I think 78 floors is what they’re proposing and very high density with over 1000 residential units. Starting at 83 Bloor Street West up to 95 Abler Street West, which is fronting onto St. Thomas Street. Right now there are stores in there that are on a bit more of a temporary lease, I guess you would say. Brooks Brothers is there for a bit. COS which is one of the brands from H&M is their. APM Monaco, the jeweler is there. M0851, which is a leather goods brand from Montreal is there. Fire and flower cannabis never did open MCM is there the luxury brand, I’m not sure for how much longer, it opened at Yorkdale. But nevertheless, these buildings eventually will be demolished. So anything there is more of a say a pop up, but it’s on a more of a temporary lease on that side of the street.

Craig Patterson 11:49
And then I do know someone on the BIA I was speaking to and they’re pushing back on this as well as I think the resident association probably is pushing back with the height and the density and everything else there. One other pushback I would be giving is create some amazing retail space. I haven’t analyzed the building too closely. But I think there’s an opportunity to put really great retail and integrate the neighborhood through these projects whenever this happens, because it may not happen for years in terms of the actual construction.

Lee Rivett 12:14
When you cross over St. Thomas Street isn’t there construction there as well?

Craig Patterson 12:18
When you cross St. Thomas street, you’re getting into a new, under construction, Rolex store.

Lee Rivett 12:24
Nice.

Craig Patterson 12:25
So I’m excited to see that open that’s going to be run by Royal De Versais, which is a jewelry store located in the same building that’s at 101 Bloor. I’m sure Rolex is going to be a wonderful addition to the neighborhood.

Lee Rivett 12:36
What about 100 Bloor Street West?

Craig Patterson 12:39
Onto 100 Bloor Street West, which is currently home to well, a few interesting retailers. There’s Holt Renfrew men, which as I mentioned before, is going to be moving back into “The mothership” Holt Renfrew store. Yes, there’s a beautiful Hermes store in there, which is not going anywhere. I’m sure it’s terrific. And it apparently does quite well. And under construction currently is Van Cleef and Arpels so there’s been some hammering down there to this construction will start with a new façade and new everything else.

Lee Rivett 13:05
So this is kind of “The Luxury Run”, right? Like, where does it start in your mind?

Craig Patterson 13:09
I kind of look at Harry Rosen as being the eastward anchor of this stretch of luxury stores, which moves towards Avenue Road, essentially not at the part of the street where Holt Renfrew is is not part of the luxury street but it really starts to get serious for a few hundred feet as you get just on the other side of Bellaire street or St. Thomas street depending which side of north or south humbler street that you are.

Lee Rivett 13:33
Is there any space around there that you’re disappointed in?

Craig Patterson 13:36
What is doesn’t seem to be having activity, unfortunately, yet is the former Pottery Barn space. There was a Mercedes Benz pop-up in there, that was a really fun event, I mean, of a place to be actually I went to an event there with Christopher Bates. But nevertheless, I think it’s hard to lease because the façade can’t be modified too much. It’s considered to be a heritage façade. Then there’s a space that was Kit and Ace and next to L’Occitane and I know that it’s being shown to prospective tenants. So it’s not I don’t believe it’s been leased yet, or at least I haven’t been told anything. But then 110 Bloor Street West is that’s where the Winners store is. But downstairs, I reported on Saint Laurent the luxury brand, it’s going to be opening it’s by far our largest store in Canada, it’s going to be over 10,000 square feet. The same 110 Bloor because it’s got a few different retail spaces facing Bloor Street is going to have Alexander Wang, the New York City based fashion designer is going to have a store in there. Next to that I think is still going to be Ann Fontaine known for white shirts, beautiful white shirts and different designs. So 110 Bloor Street is going to be very exciting. In the basement, there’s going to be a concept called Other Ship, which is bit of a health wellness concept. I’m gonna have to go and explore it a bit myself and some other stuff coming into that I’m not going to talk about yet but there’s a big exciting announcement at the back of the building that we’ll be announcing probably pretty soon actually.

Lee Rivett 14:56
Well, it’s a little odd to me to see a Winners and HomeSense across the street from a Cartier. So what’s your thought on the neighborhood having such a wide difference of retailers literally across the street from each other?

Craig Patterson 15:08
That’s a good question. Now people like me in the neighborhood definitely shop at Winners. And I’m glad it’s there. I’ve been told it’s one of the top stores in the entire company in Canada. That is, I should say, I don’t know about the American stores.

Lee Rivett 15:19
I’m just curious. But what’s the experience like when you go into that Winners? Like is it the same experience as any other Winners from around Canada? Or is there a different experience ‘bar’ or ‘expectation’ since it’s across the street from Cartier? Also, is it doing well, by the way?

Craig Patterson 15:33
Apparently, it does quite well. But I mean, I do have a message for Winners. I think the store should be upgraded a little bit in terms of the way that it looks inside. Given that it is in this luxury area. It really isn’t an amazing store and also more importantly, I think the product selection inside it does not have – at least not for quite a while since I’ve been going in there – the ‘runway collection’, which is where they bring in some of the luxury brands. I think that would do quite well when it was there before I would think it would do well on Bloor Street but you know you go down to the one at College Park and sometimes they’ve got that there but I don’t think it’s not going anywhere. It’s not shutting down with this renovation. So it is going to stay this is what I’ve been told. The store is doing very well. Again, people like me will pop in there and shop so it can get quite busy, but I think they should still just make it a bit more of a showpiece given its location.

Craig Patterson 16:22
I’m going to shift back quickly to the south side of the street because we’re almost finished here. Just because the other retailers there aren’t really moving. Gucci did a bit of a renewal and expansion during the pandemic, Burberry, Tiffany and Company, and Louis Vuitton are still there. I don’t believe they’re going anywhere. At least not yet. On the south side of the street is the Colonnade which is 131 Bloor Street West. It was Canada’s first mixed use building to have retail office and residential all in one building and completed it in the late 50s.

Lee Rivett 16:48
Is there anything new in the area?

Craig Patterson 16:50
We’ve got a new Salvatore Ferragamo flagship that’s going to be opening it’ll be a first in the world concept store so I’m excited to see what this is going to look like. I think Cartier is going to be expanding into the adjacent space I’m not 100% sure on this but this is something that I was told. Michael Kors used to be there and then it was a pop up for I think Hillary McMillan. Nevertheless you know the colonnade has a beautiful huge Dior flagship store and it’s got a Prada which has a gigantic store and William Ashley known for tableware and whatnot and gifts and really fun story enjoy it. Montclair is there – I don’t think Montclair is doing that. Well, to be honest, it’s what I’ve been told. And then I think Morguard owns the colonnade. They’re gonna have to do some extra tenanting here because the Escada shut down as a pop up for I think it’s OTW sneaker store that’s not going to stay I don’t think that’s an appropriate retailer for that location anyways. Bogner was in there before the German luxury ski brand. Jumping over to the Dolce Gabbana store, that will be closing and I know that some luxury brands have been looking at taking its place. Finally the Club Monaco building. I’m not going to touch that one right now. But something’s in the works there, finally. 151 Bloor Street is an office building. There’s retailers down there that renew their leases. It was Peloton, Mont Blanc and Max Mara is there and then there’s going to be a upscale children’s clothing store opening where Stuart Weitzman used to be.

Lee Rivett 18:14
Well, sounds like there’s a lot going on on Bloor Street there. So just to wrap up, what’s your thought on the ‘overall’ for that neighborhood?

Craig Patterson 18:21
We’ll be continuing to report on what’s happening on Bloor Street as well as in the Bloor Yorkville area because Yorkville Avenue itself is getting some pretty exciting retailers. We were talking about me talking about Yorkville Avenue during this podcast. But I just think there’s too many moving parts for me to go into that right now because I do know quite a bit about what’s going on. And it’s way more exciting than I expected. But I’m just not permitted to talk about some of these retailers. And then a couple of the deals are sort of contingent on some potential redevelopment plans in terms of the terms of them and how long they’ll be there for, but I think they will be so anyways, we’ll just leave it at Bloor Street for now. And nevertheless Bloor Street is still at a state of transition. I think for the most part. It’s all good news. And it will be reporting on this as well as what’s happening on Yorkville Avenue.

Lee Rivett 19:10
Well thank you very much for going through this specific neighborhood, especially since you live there. And otherwise, I’ll chat with you next week. Craig,

Craig Patterson 19:17
Thank you so much, Lee, and thank you so much everyone for listening today. Take care and bye for now.

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Background Music Credit: Hard Boiled Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

2 COMMENTS

  1. That was an interesting interview, though I wish you had discussed what might next go in to the handsome limestone Massey Building at the corner of Queen’s Park and Avenue Road. You did a thorough survey of the building and the big Club Monaco store that used to be there a few years ago. It looked like a great space (complete with abandoned swimming pool), the type of building that retailer Restoration Hardware would consider for one of its gallery stores in heritage locations.

    • As of today, it’s a movie set playing the part of a Chanel store. I want to get the name of the film, it will be on Netflix.

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Sylvain Charlebois says that a new survey offers a rigorous look into the preferences and behaviours shaping the future of grocery shopping in Canada.

Iconic Flo’s Diner in Toronto’s Yorkville Forced to Close After 33 Years Amid Landlord Dispute 

Retail Insider interviewed Flo’s co-owner who discusses the “heart wrenching” situation where he is being forced to close his business that began on Bellair Street in 1991.

Anatomy of a Leader: Teresa Spinelli, Owner of Alberta-Based Italian Centre Shop Ltd.

Spinelli discusses her leadership of the popular retailer which has expanded over the years, describing how she struggled to run the company at first and grew to love it.

Upscale Canadian Fashion Brand SMYTHE Expands with New Standalone Calgary Store [Interview/Photos]

It's the second store location for the Toronto-based brand, which is seeing success with its exclusive womenswear collections.

Toronto’s CF Sherway Gardens Hits Sales Milestone with Exciting Retail Growth and Future Plans [Interview]

The shopping centre is adding new retailers as sales per square foot hit an all-time high, with plans to re-tenant Nordstorm as foot traffic grows following Eataly's opening in the mall a few months ago.

ECS Coffee Opens Canada’s Largest Coffee and Espresso Equipment Gear Showroom and Retail Space in Toronto [Interview]

The new Etobicoke location is unique to Canada if not North America, according to its founder, with coffee roasting, equipment showroom, over 500 varieties of coffee, Youtube studio and various in-store experiences. He has plans to expand the concept nationally.

New Loblaws City Market Opens in Vancouver’s ‘The Post’ Building, Adding Grocery Competition to the Downtown Core [Podcast]

Craig and Lee discuss the opening of a new Loblaws City Market in downtown Vancouver's renovated Post building, and they explore its potential impact on local grocery shopping.

Loblaw Announces $2 Billion Investment in Canada for 2024 with Dozens of New Stores and 7,500 New Jobs [Expert Comment]

The retail behemoth will be growing substantially this year, following backlash over profits as inflation continues to impact Canadians.

Dubai-Based Asian Street Food Concept ‘Wok Boyz’ Expands into Canada with Plans for Multiple Locations [Interview]

The company's founder says the popular concept, with personalized meals, has an opportunity to grow substantially with its high-quality ingredients and theatrical flare, complete with fiery customer-facing woks.

Calgary Surge Basketball Team Launches Innovative Pop-Up at CF Chinook Centre to Boost Community Engagement [Interview]

The retail activation, which opened this month, is resulting in heavier foot traffic in a quieter part of the mall.