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Ossington Ave. in Toronto, Named One of the World’s ‘Coolest Streets’, Adding Retail Tenants [Interview with Jeff Hull]

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Toronto’s Ossington Avenue has been named one of the world’s coolest streets and Jeff Hull and his real estate development company Hullmark have been instrumental over the years in helping the neighbourhood reach that lofty status.

Jeff Hull

Today, Hullmark owns 17 properties on Ossington as the real estate investment and development firm has helped shape the neighbourhood since its first acquisition in 2014.

“Ossington’s transformation from overlooked street into a renowned cultural hub has been incredible to watch,” said Hull, President of Hullmark. “Ossington isn’t just the buildings, it’s the spaces in between – the people who call this neighbourhood home, and who come here every day to work, shop, eat and celebrate. It is generations of history and creative optimism that continues to drive it today.”

46-54 Ossington Avenue (Image: Hullmark)

Recently it was named one of the coolest streets in the world by Time Out, a global media and hospitality business. 

“Bustling Ossington is the place to go in Toronto for some of the city’s best restaurants, live music nearly every night of the week, and the kind of nights out that call for leather jackets, not heels. The most noteworthy stretch is between Dundas and Queen Street West: there you can parade the street and shop for everything from carefully selected vintage to garms by rising Canadian designers. For a leisurely afternoon, pop into Bellwoods Brewery or cosy up at one of the several hip and snug coffee shops and wine bars,” said Time Out.

“EAT An ice-cream sandwich or cone from Bang Bang – preferably while taking in the sunshine at the nearby Trinity Bellwoods Park.

DRINK A pint at Sweaty Betty’s for a true dive bar experience: this place is generally packed with an eclectic selection of local faces.

BUY Grown-up friendship bracelets. Book an appointment at Melanie Auld for a permanently welded jewellery experience that begs to be shared on your socials.”

Image: Hullmark

Hullmark was started by Jeff Hull’s grandfather Murphy Hull in 1950. Jeff took over the business about 15 years ago. 

“Over the last 15 years we’ve built a real estate investment and asset management platform. We have about $1 billion of assets under management right now. We operate in urban neighbourhoods, mixed-use office, residential, retail for the most part. We’re starting to do some industrial as well,” said Hull.

“But our strategy is really built on a couple of core themes. One is investing in neighbourhoods, a real place-based development program. Number two investing in design as a key component of our development projects and our portfolio in general. And having a long-term investment horizon. So really investing in the relationships of all stakeholders to see these neighbourhoods grow and evolve I think in the best possible way over time. And there’s some elements of that that align with our strategy on Ossington.”

According to the company website: “Murphy Hull started Hullmark in 1950. Growing up in Toronto as a young Polish immigrant, Murphy began in the industry as a plasterer, later progressing his trade into a home building business and subsequently into real estate development. When he started building in the 50s, the new suburban ideal was taking shape. The measure of success was being able to move out of downtown Toronto into a spacious new home on the outskirts of the city. Through hard work, determination and cultivated partnerships, Murphy grew Hullmark into a successful and influential development business. In the 70s, Murphy began pioneering condominium development, which at the time, was a new and unprecedented housing typology in the Toronto suburbs. Continuing to invest in suburban communities, his life’s work and vision culminated with the Hullmark Centre at Yonge and Sheppard, a mixed-use urban-type community, and the largest-scale project Murphy had ever undertaken. Now, with his grandson Jeff carrying on the family business, Hullmark has come full-circle, investing in the very neighborhoods where his grandparents grew up in downtown Toronto.”

Dear Grain on Ossington (Image: Hullmark)

Hull said the vast majority of the Ossington portfolio are conventional street front retail buildings with residential or office above.

“There are a few assets that are larger format retail, multi-tenant retail,” he said.

“My interest (in Ossington Avenue) was honest because I as a younger person always enjoyed spending time on Ossington. And so I think there was a natural sort of authentic connection with Ossington as an avenue. Some of the things I liked about it then are still very apparent now. It’s just sort of evolved since then. It’s a small street in terms of retail avenues in Toronto. Ossington is really like two city blocks between Queen and Dundas. So it’s a small intimate high street that has a really good mix of both fashion, hospitality and local service related uses for the community.”

109 Ossington (Image: Hullmark)

Hull said there is still more opportunity for the company to acquire properties in the neighbourhood. 

“We love Ossington. We’re really, really pleased with the way Ossington has evolved and the types of tenants that have targeted Ossington as the place where they want to open up in a lot of cases their first store in all of Toronto and Canada,” he said.

“I think what gives it its charm is first of all it’s a small high street in the context of Toronto. So it’s not very large. People can walk it in a relatively short time frame from top to bottom and back again.

“It’s the tenancies themselves which are some of the most successful and popular concepts or companies in both fashion, service and hospitality in Toronto. But I think what makes it particularly special is the community that has been built there between the tenants and the community itself.”

Size? at 1000 Queen St W (Image: Hullmark)

Another charm of the neighbourhood is its interesting mix of high and low end properties. It also has an interesting mix of retail from local service-based retailers, fashion and hospitality. It’s a mix of local mainstays to first to market and international flagships.

“What’s interesting is that over the last couple of years we’ve heard from many, many retailers that are coming into the market they say these are the three locations that we would consider opening up a store in Toronto. One is Yorkville, one is Yorkdale and the other is Ossington. And because it’s such a small street . . . it feels like a very intimate retail experience.”

All of Hullmark’s properties in the neighbourhood are located along Ossington Avenue with the exception of one building that’s just around the corner on Queen Street West.

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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