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Retail Neighbourhood Profile: Toronto’s St. Clair West [Feature]

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For years, Toronto’s St Clair West area was an undiscovered haven of possibilities for residents and businesses. Steeped in history and culture, this particular part of Toronto’s midtown was largely ignored in terms of urban development since its initial boom in the 1950s and 1960s. That is, until now.

Focusing on a particular stretch of St Clair West, between Bathurst Street and Dufferin Street, you could say it is far from the quiet, traditional street that St Clair West has always been known as. Compared with the slower neighbourhoods of Corsa Italia to the west and Yonge and St Clair (excluding the intersection and focusing on the strip between Spadina Road and Yonge Street) to the east, St Clair West is now booming. The micro-neighbourhood of Oakwood Village was even recently awarded the ‘Walker’s Paradise’ walk score of 95, implying that local residents can perform most daily errands on foot.

Recent years have seen an influx of new condominiums, and with it a new demographic in tow. These major residential developments have diluted the historically older European community and have infiltrated St Clair West and its many micro-neighbourhoods with a younger population.

The following is an overview of development, followed by neighbourhood retail offerings.

The new condo buildings in the St Clair West area have been built or will be built in the place of old gas stations, convenience stores, and run down or vacant retail spaces. St Clair and Bathurst has seen major developments in recent years with the recent addition of the 24-storey Rise Condo building right at the intersection’s south-east corner. Housing 274 units, Rise is situated at an ideal location, right next to St Clair West subway station, on the Bathurst bus route, the St Clair streetcars line, and less than a minute walk to a Loblaws grocery store.

Further to the west, right at St Clair and Atlas Avenue, is The Nest Condominiums. Built within the last two years, it contains 177 units in its nine storeys. Almost directly across the street the Eight Forty condominiums are currently being built.

Just one block west are the plans for two more buildings, one on the south side of the street and one on the north. Monza condos, on the south side, will be ten storeys high and is due to be completed by 2020. St Clair Village condominiums, on the north side of St Clair West, is set to sit in front of the local No Frills and adjacent to an LCBO. This Quadrangle-designed condo will contain a total of 122 living units spread throughout its 12 storey-tall structure. The occupancy date is approximately October 2021.

St. Clair Village Condos. Rendering: CondoNow

As the demographic changes along St Clair West, so too does the retail landscape. A shift in spending habits is apparent, as traditional clothing retail is being replaced with experiential retail such as restaurants, bars, gyms, and boutique grocerants. Consumers, particularly millennials, have high demands, and as midtown Toronto becomes a popular and (slightly) more affordable residential hub than downtown, its retail landscape is transforming.

These condominiums have breathed a new life into St Clair West. Now teeming with young families and millennials, the bars are always busy, the gyms packed, and the brunch spots brimming with people every weekend. Rather than clothing retail vying for space along this increasingly busy strip, kickboxing studios, boutique gyms, and small-scale grocery stores are taking up shop.

Bars and Restaurants

The Gym Neighbourhood Pub – A trendy replacement for St Clair’s long standing Piper’s Pub, The Gym angles itself as a neighbourhood pub that creates a social place for the community to eat and drink.

Tap Works Pub Another bar promoting the community feel is Tap Works. A recent addition to the neighbourhood, Tap Works provides high-quality pub fare and a wide selection of local craft beers and ciders.

What A Bagel This popular brunch spot has joined the buzz of St Clair West with a new location in the base of The Nest condo building. What A Bagel is a comfortable spot for young families to gather due to its affordability, relaxed atmosphere, and extensive and inclusive menu. It also offers an array of take-out options, such as coffee, pastries, and of course, bagels.

Aviv Immigrant Kitchen Having very recently moved to the neighbourhood from Dupont Street, this low-key, contemporary eatery hosts a patio in the summer (which has yet to be utilized due to its Fall opening) and offers traditional Spanish and Italian cuisine. Painted an eye-catching pink and occupying a previously empty retail space, Aviv certainly breaths new life into this particular block.

Kay Pacha Peruvian restaurant, Kay Pacha opened within the last few years on St Clair West and is consistently busy night after night.

PI.CO Authentic, custom-crafted Neapolitan pizza place PI.CO is one of St Clair West’s newest additions. Sitting right on the south-west corner of St Clair and Christie Street, this coveted spot was a Starbucks for many years.

These are a mere few examples of new and popular spots along this stretch of St Clair West. They share the prosperity with many other food retail businesses, both old and new. In addition sushi restaurants, Italian hot-spots, and speciality coffee shops and bakeries line the strip.

Gyms

Hone FitnessWithin recent years, popular and affordable gym Hone Fitness took up residence on St Clair West in the old Goodwill retail space.

F45 Quite recently, F45, a global fitness community specializing in innovative, high-intensity group workouts opened close to the St Clair and Oakwood Avenue intersection.

9Round – Residing next to new St Clair West member, PI.CO, 9Round is providing the neighbourhood with a new form of fitness. Its 30-minute kickboxing classes promise to reinvent your workout routine and 9Round is sure to be a welcome addition to St Clair West’s already fruitful gym selection.

Hone Fitness, Toronto. Photo: Google Maps

The above are examples of St Clair West’s newest gyms and workout amenities. In addition to what is mentioned, the community can also avail of yoga studios, spinning studios, and boutique gyms.

Grocerants

Moberly Natural Food Already popular in The Beaches, Moberly Natural Foods chose St Clair West for its second location in 2019. A high-end, small-scale grocery store, Moberly offers a wide variety of wholesome grocery items. It is located directly underneath popular spin studio Rocket Cycle.

Roast Fine Foods Gourmet butcher shop Roast provides St Clair West residents with high-quality and organic meat products. Albeit pricey, Roast is extremely popular and serves as a clear indication of how people are choosing to spend their money. 

De La Mer Fish Market De La Mer joined the St Clair West lineup within the last twenty-four months. It offers the community a place to buy high-quality, organic, and sustainable seafood from around the world. Similar to Roast, the prices are slightly higher than they would be at Loblaws etc, however you pay for quality and clearly St Clair West residents agree.

Roast Fine Foods. Photo: Jessica Finch

Also encompassed in this stretch of St Clair West is a Loblaws at St Clair and Bathurst, and a No Frills situated at St Clair and Alberta Avenue.

Hybrids

Dismount Bike Shop A full-service family bike and coffee shop, Dismount is dedicated to fulfilling the neighbourhood’s cycling needs and creating a community hub within its walls with its coffee shop element.

May Flowers A sister-run flower shop, turned coffee-flower shop hybrid, May Flowers provides the neighbourhood with stunning flower arrangements, good coffee, and a cozy corner to relax and stop and smell the roses, literally.

Lion Cafe x Chocolate de Kat Small coffee shop and specialty chocolate manufacturer, Lion Cafe x Chocolate de Kat started as a collaboration of passions between entrepreneurs Hazel Laquindanum and Kata Ambrus. Today it is a place to grab a good coffee or purchase some high-quality, specialty chocolate.

Lion Coffee. Photo: Jessica Finch

Clearly the neighbourhood of St Clair West’s spending habits focus on food, wellness, and experiences.

Judging by the lack of clothing stores along this particular strip, it can be assumed that the demand is simply not there. It appears that this generation of shoppers are happy to travel to malls such as Yorkdale Shopping Centre or CF Toronto Eaton Centre to shop for clothing and fashion items; that what they look for in their neighbourhoods is experiential retail and aspects that create community for them in a city that may otherwise feel impersonal.

Long-time and highly-reputable local realtor Josie Stern says that the strongest draw to the neighbourhood is “living within a close knit community where you feel you belong. Wychwood Barns, dog park, Saturday Farmers Market and all community events, many of which we sponsor, bring the community together and makes them feel like they belong.”

Stern also notes the high commercial rents along this stretch and how “traffic would have to be very high for a clothing retail to be profitable unless you’ve owned the building for awhile.” Another contributing factor to the current retail landscape along St Clair West.

Despite the initial controversy surrounding the installation of the St Clair streetcar line, it has inevitably aided the street in attracting residents, businesses, and shoppers to the area. Running on its own track means the route is more efficient as it doesn’t have to compete with traffic.

The portion of St Clair that is serviced by the streetcar is bookended by larger shopping areas —The Stockyards at St Clair and Weston Road, and the Yonge and St Clair centre right at the intersection. The Stockyards, built in 2014, offers a variety of retail offerings and is still being added to. The St Clair Centre recently received a facelift, creating a more efficient and attractive retail destination. This intersection is sure to see even more additions in 2020. Both locations provide St Clair residents the luxury of avoiding the downtown core if desired because of the streetcar’s ease of accessibility.

The changing face of retail is evident on prosperous St Clair West. “I think it’s inevitable that as families grow and condos keep being built, there will be more retail geared towards this new demographic. More environmentally healthy choices, more health conscious businesses, more foods catering to a more convenient lifestyle…There will be lots of opportunity for entrepreneurs as the community is diverse and supports local businesses.”

Each new month sees more activity in the area, and as the street tries to keep pace with the downtown core, one can only hope that, in addition to continued prosperity, the charm of quaint Corsa Italia with its family-run businesses and small-scale retail remains protected and intact.

Article Author

Jessica Finch
Jessica Finch is a writer and editor based in Toronto. She holds a BA in English and Psychology and is a graduate of Ryerson University’s Publishing program. She has extensive managerial experience in the food service industry, and is interested in exploring innovations within this sector and other retail environments.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Any idea what’s taking the massive retail space at the Rise Condos mentioned? It’s been for lease for more than a year, and is a very large space. 501 St. Clair Ave. W

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