Is Toronto Getting a New Apple Store?
Thursday Mar 10th, 2016
IS TORONTO GETTING A NEW APPLE STORE? A RUMOUR RUNDOWN
The Eaton Centre Apple Store is a harrowing place to visit. It's continually packed with a 50-50 mix of blue-shirted Apple employees and flustered customers - and, what's more, it's the only place in the city centre where it's possible to get in-person customer service for an Apple device. The place's unpleasantness has touched the life of any downtown-dweller who has ever shattered an iPhone screen. (which is basically everyone).
For the past few years, there have been persistent rumours that help is on the way. Apple is said to be hunting for a new and larger (and more humane) location for its downtown Toronto flagship. But the company's legendary penchant for secrecy has made it nearly impossible for anyone to get confirmation. The situation is so opaque that there are currently four distinct Apple Store rumours in circulation, most of which contradict one another. Here, our assessment of the credibility of each.
Rumour One: Apple has signed a lease on an unbuilt storefront at Yonge & Bloor
This is the granddaddy of all Apple Store rumours. It first surfaced four years ago and intensified in early 2015 when developer Sam Mizrahi announced that he had purchased Stollery's, a men's clothing store on the southwest corner of Yonge and Bloor. The theory is that Apple has signed a lease for a space on the ground floor of The One, Mizrahi's planned (but still unbuilt) 84-storey retail and condo tower.
The likelihood: Real estate insiders say they've heard this rumour and believe it to be true. The Bloor-Yorkville strip is one of the most sought-after areas in Toronto for flagship retail, and there aren't many unoccupied storefronts in the vicinity that are large and unobstructed enough for a finicky tenant like Apple. The company's representatives have never confirmed an interest in the space.
Rumour Two: Apple has abandoned the idea of leasing a storefront at Yonge & Bloor
This one comes courtesy of MacRumours, an Apple gossip website. Citing "an anonymous tipster," the site says Apple "may be pulling out" of Mizrahi's tower, "due to a lack of confidence and other concerns about the real estate project."
The likelihood: Insiders tell us that they haven't heard this one, and don't know if there's any truth to it. But none of them think it's utterly impossible: Mizrahi is a well-known residential developer, but he has never delivered a building as large as The One before (nor has any Canadian developer), and the project has yet to secure zoning approval from the city - two potential strikes against it in negotiations with prospective tenants. Apple is notoriously picky about real estate, and it wouldn't be out of character for the company to walk away from a deal if it had doubts. (One source tells us Apple considered another building on the Bloor strip a few years ago, then "changed their mind".) Mizrahi tells us it's too early for him to comment on any tenant rumours.
Rumour Three: Apple is interested in Pottery Barn
The Pottery Barn at 100 Bloor Street West doesn't plan to renew its lease. MacRumours, via an anonymous tipster, has heard that Apple is eyeing the space.
The likelihood: Real estate insiders agree that it would make sense for Apple to be interested in 100 Bloor Street West. With 28,000 SF spread across two storefronts (a tenant could rent one of them, or both), it's the only existing leasable space on Bloor Street that would be big and prominent enough for Apple. But the property's listing brokerage tells us that they haven't had any inquiries from the company.
Rumour Four: Apple is moving into a larger space at the Eaton Centre
Conspiracy theorists at the UrbanToronto forums have noticed that the Eaton Centre's landlord, Cadillac Fairview, has carved a new 21,000 SF, two-storey retail space out of what used to be Sears. The new storefront will have doors that open directly onto Yonge Street, making it a good location for a high-profile tenant. Apple's flagship store at New York City's Grand Central Station is about 23,000 SF - so the shoe fits.
The likelihood: Apple already has an Eaton Centre store, but it's not totally far-fetched that the company would want a bigger one, especially if it came with some valuable Yonge-Dundas frontage. Cadillac Fairview is staying silent on the status of the space (a spokesperson told us that they "are in the midst of finalizing redevelopment plans and we will share those plans when appropriate.") One knowledgable source tells us that there is, indeed, a well-known retailer in negotiations for the space, but it's not Apple. This source acknowledged that it's possible Apple is also in negotiations. But we don't think it's terribly likely.