Toronto’s Master-Planned Canary District Continues to Develop with Focus on Health and Wellness Retailers [Feature]


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In recent years, the Canary District in downtown Toronto has experienced a tremendous amount of development, transforming the neighbourhood into a commercial and residential hub.

And Dream Unlimited Corp. has played a significant role in the evolution with its completed Canary District mixed-use development and its current Canary Landing project which is under development.

Corrine Dorazio

Corrine Dorazio, Vice President, Leasing with the Dream Office Real Estate Investment Trust, said the master-planned, inclusive, mixed-use neighbourhood is revitalizing Toronto’s Downtown East. 

Canary District Retailer (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Distillery District / Canary District (Image: Dream)

“Our focus was always on health and wellness and partnering with tenancies that are a mix of local entrepreneurial types of retailers with a couple of national retailers as well,” said Dorazio. “Health and wellness is a focus that we’re carrying through to Canary Landing as well as we have more retail to lease there.

“We really are rounding out the offering and the programming with respect to what our residents will be able to experience when they’re living there. We’re trying to create a city within a city. That really is our goal here as we build out Canary District and Canary Landing.

“Dream, in partnership with Kilmer Group, realized the potential to create a new 35-acre master planned community, neighbouring the 18-acre Corktown Common Park and Distillery District, that could bring new energy and vitality to an underdeveloped area in Toronto’s downtown east end. The location of the site – close to green spaces, parks, desirable heritage areas and natural features like the waterfront and Don River trails, make it an exciting opportunity for both residential and retail spaces.

“Across the Canary District as a whole, there is 52,475 square feet of retail, of which 91 per cent has been leased. As a company, we are excited to be leading the way in adding housing and retail options to a previously underdeveloped part of the city.”

The Canary District Condos (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

The Canary District includes:

  • 82,000-square-foot YMCA (providing Health & Fitness, Camps, and Immigrant Services programs)
  • 18-acre Corktown Commons Park (City of Toronto lands)

Residential demographics:

  • George Brown College Residences: 500 student residences
  • Wigwamen Housing: 145 residences
  • Canary Park Condos: 437 residences
  • Canary Block Condos: 187 residences
  • Canary House Condos: 369 residences
  • Canary Commons Condos: 400 residences

Total retail: 52,475 square feet (retail is 91 per cent leased)

“We’re creating a complete community in a highly accessible location, for residents who live in the Canary District. Our focus has been to activate the neighbourhood with a wide array of amenities including the 82,000-square- foot Cooper Koo Family YMCA, numerous fitness, food and beverage offerings, as well as personal and pet services retailers,” said Dorazio.

“We believe a wide spectrum of retailer programming provides a positive and inclusive experience for all residents to live, work and play.”

Canary Landing from The Distillery District (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Canary Landing, a partnership between Dream, Kilmer Group and Tricon Residential Inc., includes:

Maple House:

  • 3 buildings, 770 residences
  • Targeting August 2023 occupancy
  • Total retail: 3,950 square feet  (retail is 90 per cent leased)

Birch House:

  • 1 building, 200 residences
  • Targeting Q4 2024 Occupancy
  • Total retail: approximately 27,938 square feet

Cherry House:

  • 3 buildings, 856 residences
  • Targeting Q3 2025 occupancy
  • Total retail: approximately 30,910 square feet
Canary District (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Canary District (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Birch House is the development in Canary Landing where Dream has partnered with Kilmer Group and Anishnawbe Health Toronto. The Indigenous Health Centre by Anishnawbe Health Toronto, will be located within the Birch House block (at the south east corner of Front and Cherry) which will deliver a model of health care based on Indigenous culture and traditions and will care for Indigenous clients with both western and traditional approaches to health care. 

Canary District (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Here’s the retail footprint Dream has assembled in the neighbourhood:

Canary District (existing retail in the residential buildings already completed):

–          Cooper Koo YMCA

–          Dark Horse Espresso Bar

–          Elite Care Physio 

–          Fika Cannabis

–          Expedia Cruise Centres

–          Canary Market

–          Pet store (TBA, opening October 2023)

–          Sukhothai

–          barBurrito

–          Rock On Climbing

–          Aviary + Longslice Brewery

–          Tabule/Souk

–          Body Fit Training

–          TD Bank

–          Canary Dental

–          Canary District Animal Hospital

–          Fuel+

–          Marché Leo’s (Canary District grocery anchor, opening December 2023)

Canary Landing

–          Croissanterie/French bakery offering (located in the Maple House rental development – residential occupancy is August 1, 2023, retail deal is approximately 3,500 square feet, TBA, opening June 2024)

Canary Landing (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Canary Landing is located in Toronto’s award-winning Canary District community, a pedestrian scale urban village adjacent to the Distillery District in the Downtown East. 

“What we’re trying to create is this really meaningful place to be able to live and visit,” said Dorazio.

“We’re looking to continue to support and complement the development that’s taking place at Canary Landing with retailers whether it’s health and wellness, medical clinic offerings, that help to holistically create an experience for everyone that’s living there or anyone that’s coming to visit.”

She said the type of retail offering is always critical in its pursuit to build a city within a city and create a highly sought after amenity experience for residents of the community. 

“We’re committed to ensuring residents’ needs are supported with a retail mix that serves all lifestyles and individuals and families at all stages of life. With Canary District, there is a specific focus on health and wellness — along with pet offerings (including a vet clinic and pet store), a bank, a local coffee shop, and brewery,” said Dorazio.

“The retail experience is what helps drive the value of the residential offering. It’s a key part of the package and vision of what we’re offering prospective tenants and the neighbourhood.

“Our strategy to curating the retail mix in Canary District starts with a holistic approach, grounded in health and wellness. To that end, we seek to partner with local entrepreneurs who offer something unique and special for the Canary community. Tenants like Rock On Climbing, Elite Care and Fuel+ , to name a few, exemplify the type of retail offering we are focused on at Canary.”

Indigenous Hub and Canary House are expected to look when complete, image from submission to City of Toronto (Via
Canary District (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

She said the Indigenous Hub is a 2.4-acre purpose-built site that will include a health care centre, an Indigenous training, education and employment centre along with a condominium (Canary House) and rental residence within Canary Landing. It’s currently under construction and slated for Q4 2024 completion. 

 “We have approximately 28,000 square feet left to lease at the IndigenousHub, including a beautifully revitalized heritage house located on the south-east corner of Front and Cherry, which could include a restaurant,” added Dorazio

“For the rest of Canary House, we’re seeking to secure retailers that complement this offering, in keeping with the overall focus on health and wellness for the Canary community.

“At Maple House, our development in partnership with Kilmer Group and Tricon Residential, we have very recently secured a French bakery offering in approximately 3,500 sf (which makes up the majority of the retail space available at Maple House), slated for a June 2024 opening (with Maple House occupancy beginning at the end of July 2024).”

She said Dream intends to continue its pursuit for local, unique fine-grain retailers in the food & beverage and health care sectors. 

Future Body Fit Training at the Canary District (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Dark Horse at the Canary District (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Future Marché Leo’s at 475 Front Street East in the Canary District (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

“We’d love to secure a health clinic or pharmaceutical offering to support the Canary District community at large, along with more fitness, food and beverage retailers,” she said. 

 Will Marché Leo’s be the only grocery store in the immediate area?  

“This is still to be determined at this time,” she added.

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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