Mirvish Village Signing Retail Tenants as Project Transforms former Honest Ed’s Site in Toronto [Renderings/Interviews]

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The site of Mirvish Village in Toronto builds on the heritage and legacy of Honest Ed’s Department Store, a beloved institution in Toronto for over 50 years.

Designed as a new, vibrant community hub and gathering place, Mirvish Village will integrate a new park and market, called The Kitchen, an extensive public realm, micro-retail, 24 restored heritage buildings, unique restaurants and shops as well as numerous indoor and outdoor performance and gathering spaces all interwoven with public art installations including a mural by artist Frank Stella.

There is 200,000 square feet of Creative Workspace and Retail at Mirvish Village.

Mirvish Village will contribute to the supply of rental housing across the continuum for the Toronto community, with six rental residential buildings and nearly 900 rental homes. Of these, 100 homes will be affordable rental, secured at 80 per cent of Average Market Rent for the City of Toronto, as published by CMHC. The affordable rental homes will be scattered throughout the project and will be of the same quality and design as market rental homes, seamlessly woven into the makeup of a complete 100 per cent rental community at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst. The project is also sustainable, designed to be highly walkable, with pedestrian-oriented amenities and greenspace. The project will be powered by a neighbourhood energy system by Creative Energy that will help reduce energy use by 30%.

Mirvish Village (Rendering Westbank / Peterson)

Vanessa Lynch, Sales Representative, Commercial Acquisitions and Leasing, for DWSV, Remax Ultimate Realty Inc., said there are many pieces to the retail component of Mirvish Village.

“Mirvish Village is designed to be vibrant day and night, and become the neighbourhood’s community hub. There’s actually a lot of interactive components to it,” said Lynch. “And it’s an incredible opportunity for brands and retailers to really engage with the community, visitors and tourists alike.”

The retail at Mirvish Village is diverse, varied and designed to reflect the fine grain character of the historic site, with multiple spaces available for micro to mid-size to larger tenants. The project is anchored by The Kitchen, a market, food hall and performance venue, which forms an identifiable heart of the project. “The Kitchen is connected to every aspect of the site including the retail high street at Markham Street and the public park,” said Lynch. 

Mirvish Village (Rendering Westbank / Peterson)

Retail for the project is in four components.

Honest Ed’s Alley is a pedestrian-only thoroughfare with 25 move-in ready micro retail units. It will build on the entrepreneurial spirit of Ed and Anne Mirvish and celebrate all that they created by supporting creative, innovative and passionate entrepreneurs and small business owners. Mirvish Village will offer incubator spaces and micro-retail spaces for these businesses to showcase their products and test out new concepts.

“They range anywhere from 120-450 square feet. They’re turnkey solutions for entrepreneurs and businesses that want to test out their products and services,” said Lynch. “They can be short term as little as three months or you could do up to two years. It can be everything from a one-person hair stylist to a tattoo artist to a chocolatier to a clothing concept. 

Mirvish Village (Rendering Westbank / Peterson)

“This alleyway was also inspired by the alleyways in Tokyo. So you’re going to have lots of bright neon signages. It’s going to be lit up. A really interactive experience for people to come out and try new products and services.”

There is also The Kitchen and music venue. Lynch said The Kitchen has been designed to be a place where the neighbourhood and the broader Toronto community can come for a diverse array of food and drink that’s reflective of the cultural mosaic of the city. There will be 16 food kiosks ranging from 200 square feet to about 400 square feet.

“Within that we also have a music venue which can be indoors or outdoors, operational all seasons of the year . . . there will also be special concerts and events throughout the year,” she said.

Mirvish Village (Rendering Westbank / Peterson)

The restoration of the Markham Street heritage houses reimagines the street as a pedestrian-oriented avenue. The 18 restored heritage houses (of a total 24 restored heritage structures) will be home to unique restaurants, cafes, bookstores, record stores and other retailers that reflect the distinct character of the neighbourhood. The project is returning Markham Street to the vibrancy of its heyday in the 1960s, when rows of 20th century residences housing galleries and studios lined the street, and artists sold their pieces on their front lawns.

“This is where we get to be really creative and curate the area in a meaningful way,” explained Lynch. “Each home has its own unique traits and a story to tell. We’ve been actively going out to the marketplace and approaching specific brands, retailers, operators, who we feel would be a great fit for the development and for the community itself and that will draw traffic to the area. 

“We’ve engaged with really unique restaurant operators, cafes, bookstores, galleries, clothing, vintage stores, health and wellness groups, and more.”

Then there’s the Main Street Retail element to the project along Bloor and Bathurst which will be curated with a mix of local and international brands and retailers. Each building façade is unique, for example, one building’s façade features and art piece by Ian Wallace as part of a large-scale, multi-artist public art program that will help Mirvish Village become one of the most interesting projects in the country.

Mirvish Village (Rendering Westbank / Peterson)

Lynch said the first businesses are anticipated to open for the second quarter of next year. 

“Mirvish Village is designed to attract visitors and those wanting an exciting day trip or a place where you can literally spend hours and hours and just discover and interact with new products and services,” she said.

“It’s a place that we’re curating for people that need some retail therapy from clothes to books to galleries. It’s a place where you can catch a performance, indoors or out. It’s a place where you can grab an ice cream and hang out in the park with family and friends. It’s truly the place that is going to bring the community together in every way possible. 

“For groups or brands, that’s a huge attraction because you have nearly 900 purpose-built rentals, you have over 1,800 people living within that development, and the way we’re curating it and the groups that we’re speaking with from the unique restaurant operators to health and wellness offerings to galleries, and we’re not talking about big box stores or chain stores. We’re talking to businesses that will offer a unique experience to the consumer. That’s what’s intriguing them and enticing them to become a part of this amazing master plan.”

Mirvish Village (Rendering Westbank / Peterson)

The purpose-built rental community of Mirvish Village will build on a rich history that Ed Mirvish began in 1948 with the opening of Honest Ed’s.

The project is being spearheaded by Westbank and Peterson, after acquiring the site in 2014.

Westbank is active across Canada, the United States, and Tokyo with projects including condo residential, hotels, retail, office, residential rental, district energy, affordable housing and public art. Despite the impressive active portfolio Mirvish Village is, according to Emilie Lok who runs the leasing at Westbank, a very special one to be part of.

“The site itself obviously has a very rich history,” she says. “And, in order to create something truly special – something that lives up to the historical significance of the site – we wanted to leverage the sense of community and entrepreneurialism that it represented. The purpose-built rental towers make the community accessible to anyone who wants to live here. By highlighting small and independent retailers, we’re honouring the entrepreneurial spirit while creating a modern experience that will delight members of the community and keep visitors coming back.”

Mirvish Village (Rendering Westbank / Peterson)

It’s all part of what Lok describes as a vibrance that’s going to permeate the entire Mirvish Village community and surrounding area. And, she says, it’s the result of a concerted strategy focused on approaching the project, and every decision made, with a holistic and comprehensive vision.

“Everything that we’ve done as part of our execution of this project has been done with the idea of creating a community that has all the amenities of daily life, but inside a lively environment where people can gather, eat with friends and family, shop, listen to music and be entertained..”

“A Jewish-American immigrant, entrepreneur, business leader and community builder, Ed Mirvish and his family created a beacon for diverse communities and a gathering place for recent immigrants to Toronto. To this day, the site holds meaning for so many people. Our goal when we were invited by David Mirvish to redevelop the site was not only to honour this legacy, but to build on the idea that Mirvish Village will represent this community and support its evolution,” says a statement from Westbank.

Earlier in the year, Westbank  secured four anchor tenants for the project – Bestco grocery store; LCBO, Toronto School of Management, and House Concepts.

“The Honest Ed’s Store had multiple incarnations, spanning over 60 years in business at the same location. The store grew incrementally from the corner of Bloor and Markham, as “Honest” Ed Mirvish gradually annexed the buildings to the east and south to fill most of a city block. The store became a Toronto landmark and the surrounding area became a haven for artists, housing galleries, boutiques, and restaurants, anchored by Anne Mirvish’s studio and practice,” according to Westbank.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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