November in Yorkville

Tuesday Nov 04th, 2014


Change Remains The Constant in Yorkville.
Impeccably dressed in a crisp black blazer and plaid Moschino pocket square, with a vodka martini in hand, designer William MacDonald surveys the early evening streetscape at Bay & Yorkville. His perch is the plush dbar in the Four Seasons Hotel.

It's a scene MacDonald has watched for decades since first venturing into Yorkville from his home in the Beach at an impressionable age of 16. "We'd go to the Ralph Lauren store at Hazelton Lanes, then to the skating rink." Both are gone now, he notes with a touch of nostalgia, while conceding that the landmark mall's upcoming makeover is badly needed. "After that, we'd have hot chocolate. Maybe we'd go to a movie at the University Theatre, or spend hours looking at magazines and books," says MacDonald, who also laments the recent closing of Maison de la Presse Internationale, a Yorkville newsstand that fell victim to the digital revolution. 

The Four Seasons itself has undergone a complete transformation - moving just north and east to 60 Yorkville Avenue, from its original spot at Avenue & Cumberland, and adding a 30-storey condo tower. But change, says MacDonald, is good. 

As well, change has been something of a constant for the Village of Yorkville. Founded in 1830 by entrepreneur Joseph Bloore - or Bloor - it was initially a leafy residential area with pretty Victorian homes before doing a stint in the 1960s as a Petri dish for hippie culture. By the '80s, the arrival of high-end fashion retailers, such as Harry Rosen and Holt Renfrew, signalled its glitzy new era. 

And there's more change coming, including the closing of Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn on Bloor Street, slated for early 2015. On the plus side, says MacDonald, is the addition of the "stunning, gorgeous, dazzling" Holt Renfrew Men that has opened at 100 Bloor St., offering sartorially inclined gentlemen everything from bespoke tailoring to shoe repair.

These days, for MacDonald, it's work that brings him so frequently to the Four Seasons. "I'm in Rosedale and Yorkville for clients a lot, so the Four Seasons is sort of a satellite office. It's very convenient, and it's so beautiful," he says of the space, designed by George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg.

Street Numbers...

420 million...pounds of concrete in the Four Seasons Hotel and Residences.

$18...cost of dbar's Chariots of Fire cocktail with Scotch, mezcal, Dubonnet, Pimm's and Drambuie.

1 billion...approximate age, in years, of the 650-tonne granite rock in Yorkville Park.

3...words used by William MacDonald to describe Yorkville: "Casual. Historic. Home"

Do You Remember The Time...? Pt. II
Continuing with my theme of last month of reminiscing about the good ol' days in the Yorkville of the '60s, I thought it would be interesting to take a quick look in on what some of those, then budding superstars, are up to 50 years later.

Leonard Cohen has gone on to become a legend. Leonard rose from the dark smokey basements of Yorkville to become a Canadian icon. Much like Bob Dylan, he has remained a prolific international artist for over five decades. As well he has earned his place as a folk rock legend and international superstar. Leonard has also found success as a poet and author. Currently, he is celebrating the release of his 13th studio album at the remarkable age of 80, his second in two years, most of which he spent on tour. A pretty incredible cap to a pretty incredible career. 
When it comes to classic female Canadian folk rockers, Joni Mitchell takes the cake. From the late '60s onward, Mitchell became an internationally renowned songwriter and collaborator. Her 1971 album "Blue" is seen as one of the greatest albums of all time. "Both Sides Now" and "Big Yellow Taxi" were some of her blockbuster early hits. Mitchell also moved into jazz, working with legends such as Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Pat Metheny. Mitchell retired from music in 2009 and now focuses on her visual arts. She spends time in both LA and BC.

Before Michael Buble became the face of Canadian crooning, there was Ottawa's Paul Anka. I don't know for sure if Paul ever performed in Yorkville, he was perhaps a bit too wholesome for the gritty Yorkville scene, but his music is a legend and he deserves a mention. Anka became famous in '50s and continued his success into the 80s with songs like "Diana", "Lonely Boy" and "Put Your Head on My Shoulder". Even though he may never have ventured into the Yorkville scene, his music was on everyone's mind. Anka has also written a couple songs with Michael Jackson and had several acting roles in film and TV throughout the years. He even made a "Simpsons" cameo in 1995! Anka still tours and records today and is probably someone your parents would want to check out at a casino. 

Good ol' Gordon Lightfoot has been a Canadian country and folk legend since the '60s. Not only is he an international star in the genre, he's also widely considered one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Now 75 years old, Lightfoot has released 21 albums, the last being 2012's "All Live". He is still an active artist today.
Speaking of music legends, Yusaf Islam is coming to Toronto on December 1st. This will be the first appearance Yusaf has made in 38 years!

Who the heck is Yusaf Islam you ask?

You may remember him for such amazing tunes as "Peace Train", "Morning has Broken", and "Wild World". Before he converted to Islam and disappeared from the world stage, Yusaf was otherwise known as the legendary Cat Stevens. The music world is honoured to have Cat return from his retirement in Dubai and share with us his musical gift. 

Our New Neighbour.
Yorkville - say Hi to your new neighbour, Mark Wahlberg.

Mark Wahlberg hasn't moved into his new digs at 36 Hazelton yet. His move this summer was supposed to coincide with the opening of Wahlberg's burger restaurant in the Soho Metropolitan Hotel. If the $12-million price tag for the condo hasn't urged him to move in yet, I'm sure it soon will. At 4,600 square feet, one might consider it pretty spacious, but it pales in comparison when put up against his 30,000 SF mansion in California. Built on the former site of St. Basil's Catholic School, the building will maintain the school's original facade. One of Mark's best friends, Tie Domi, took a look at the Hazelton Avenue address, as seen in the picture above, but didn't take the plunge with Mark. 

Yorkville's Real Halloween Story.

By the time you read this, Halloween will be over. Tiny little Yorkvillian ghouls and gremlins will be hidden away in their own sanctuary (their bedroom) eating their way through a veritable mountain of candies. What these ghoulish little tricksters did not know as they prowled the dark streets of Yorkville on the 31st, is that the very streets they walked on are in the very middle of an old graveyard. As the wind blew the last vestiges of summer's leaves along the darkened streets in the little eddies, several feet below lie the human remains of a bygone era. Now that's Halloween scary! The vast cemetery that once was the land that Yorkville now occupies, laid to rest the remains of Toronto's deceased that could not afford the luxury of a church burial. The cemetery was closed in the 1870s and has long since been forgotten. Forgotten by all that is, except the condo builders. Human remains keep turning up today at every modern day condominium excavation in the area, putting the project on hold until the remains are quietly removed and buried for the second time. 

And you thought burial was for eternity?

Goodbye Stollery's & Hello Condos.
Early October, news broke on the coming redevelopment of the Yonge and Bloor intersection's last remaining low-rise corner, with Mizrahi Developments recent purchase of the 30,000 SF Stollery's store located the the southwest corner of the bustling intersection. This purchase is part of a land assembly that was sold to Mizrahi for a reported $300 million, which includes 11 Bloor West, formerly occupied by a French Connection UK location, as well as the Sunrise Records located to the immediate south of Stollery's on Yonge. 

Dozens of developers were reported to have approached the owners of Stollery's over the past few years with offers to purchase the 114-year old mens store, but Stollery's owners only sold to Mizrahi as they were convinced that the developer would build a high-quality landmark on the site. It is still to be confirmed which of the adjacent properties located to the west along Bloor or to the south along Yonge are also included in the land assembly.

While there is no final design for the development and the visioning stage is still ongoing, Sam Mizrahi, President of Mizrahi Developments told the Globe and Mail that they felt a responsibility to create an iconic building at this important intersection, one which has dubbed 'The One' for its 1 Bloor Street West address. Mizrahi is considering a significant retail component to the development, and is looking at international retailers and restaurateurs to fill the base of the building, likely with a sky-scaping condominium tower to rise above. Speculation is that the new tower would be in similar height range to neighbouring One Bloor East, a 75-storey condominium tower by developer Great Gulf, currently rising across Yonge Street from this site.

We can now add a little more information to what is known; Sam Mizrahi has told us that the architects involved are world-renowned Sir Normal Foster of London, England-based Foster + Partners partnered with multi-award winning Core Architects of Toronto. Mizrahi also revealed that three underground connections are planned to run from 'The One' under adjacent streets to the PATH pedestrian network and the Yonge & Bloor subway lines.  

Much more is to come soon. I will be closely following the progress of The One, and will return with additional information as further details are revealed.


What's Happening in Yorkville?
Holiday Magic 2014 with Molly Johnson in concert
Saturday November 15th, 2014

The Village of Yorkville Park

Bloor-Yorkville kicks off the holiday season with the annual tree lighting ceremony and a special performance by returning musical sensation and Canadian Jazz legend, Molly Johnson.

On Saturday November 15th, the BYBIA will kick off the holiday season with Holiday Magic, the spectacular annual community concert event in support of the Canadian Foundation for Aids Research (CANFAR). Between 5pm - 6.30pm families, friends and music lovers are invited to the Village of Yorkville Park for the Official "Flick the Switch" Lighting Ceremony and a special performance by Molly Johnson. 

The Village of Yorkville and Bloor Street will be transformed into a dazzling display of lights shining bright throughout the neighbourhood. In addition to the Christmas tree located in the Village of Yorkville Park, a 20-foot tree glowing with an LED light display will sit outside the ROM at Avenue Road and Bloor Street. Patrons of the neighbourhood can look forward to shopping, dining and enjoying the attractions this year surrounded by festive lighting along the tree-lined streets.


Bloor Street Entertains

Tuesday November 25th, 2014

Various locations throughout Yorkville

Each year, on the eve of World AIDS Day, Toronto witnesses something powerful, something unique; it sees the coming together of exquisite culinary masters, lavish retailers and elegant florists who join together for a vital cause; it experiences CANFAR's Bloor Street Entertains.

CANFAR invites you to join us for an evening of luxurious indulgence; on Tuesday November 25, 2014, treat yourself to the Bloor Street Entertains experience. 

Your Exclusive Dining Location | 6.30 PM
Be inspired as your favourite boutiques and galleries in Bloor-Yorkville are transformed into elegant dining spaces, complete with stunning, one-of-a-kind floral arrangements and signature culinary art dishes. Mix and mingle with Canada's trendsetters and powerhouses who are, individually and collectively, changing the AIDS response.

Dinner locations:
BOSS Store, Burberry, Gardiner Museum, Harry Rosen, Holt Renfrew, Liss Gallery, Mulberry Boutique, Nespresso Boutique Bar, RIMOWA, Royal Ontario Museum, RP Investment Advisers, Strellson, Swarovski, Tiffany & Co., Victorinox Swiss Army, William Ashley's.

The After Party at the Royal Ontario Museum | 9 PM
Immerse yourself in glitz and glamour and get lost in an unexpected world of high-energy and sensational surroundings. Let us stimulate your senses through a selection of Toronto's most iconic performers, including a live band and DJ Kicks and must-have auction items at this one-of-a-kind party.

Be a part of the Bloor Street Entertains experience. Be a part of our AIDS-free future. 


They Paved Paradise & Squeezed Out The Parking Lots. 
Parking spots in big cities in North America are becoming increasingly more expensive and being offered less by developers. A condo in the SOHO district of NYC made headlines recently when it sold a parking space for a whopping $1,000,000. In Toronto, parking for downtown condos can range anywhere from $50,000 to $75,000 with high-end buildings like the Four Seasons fetching $100,000 per space.
Why is parking so expensive? The cost to build underground parking is a significant part of the building cost. Excavating forming and shoring are large cost drivers during construction, and condo corporation costs are driven higher by the cost to light, heat and ventilate the spaces. In some instances, parking can represent as much as 35% of the resale price of a condo. Additionally, the ever shrinking footprint of condos in crowded downtown areas make accessibility an issue. Some condos get around this by using elevators to bring cars to the parking expensive option, and some provide really cramped ramps. Either way, providing underground parking is expensive. As a result, developers like Canderel are reducing their parking spaces to as low as 21% parking-to-unit ratio. This is partly driven by cost and partly because of  diminishing demand for parking. In a recent builders survey, over 50% of the under 30's interviewed said they didn't own a car and 25% said they didn't have a drivers license. Older demographics in higher cost buildings still demand parking spaces. With the cost of owning a car compared to the ease and convenience of urban transportation, coupled with the thriving car share business, thrifty urbanites are opting out of vehicle ownership, and developers are eager to acknowledge the trend. Where will this trend lead? Much lower availability of parking spots and much higher prices!

Let's Talk REAL ESTATE. 
The Toronto Real Estate Board has released their September data. September 2014's average selling price climbed to $573,676, a 7.7% increase versus the same period in 2013. GTA price growth was strongest within the City of Toronto, for both low-rise home types as well as condominium apartments. The average selling price year-to-date was $563,813, an 8.5% increase compared to the first nine months of 2013. 

Incidentally, we recently saw 5-year fixed mortgage advertised at 2.69%! With 5-year Canadian bonds down to 1.53%, deflating this housing market won't come from higher rates!

Let's take a look at Yorkville's condo market...

The last six months have produced a total of 89 condo sales in Yorkville, a 7.23% increase in volume from last issue. The increase can be primarily attributed to the robust Autumn Market. The average price of  Yorkville condominium is approximately $1,082,584. This figure represents a 2.73% decrease from the previous 6-month moving average. This is mainly attributed to the fact that a large proportion of condos well above the market average were transacted in the spring months of this year and are no longer taken into account when calculating the 6-month moving average.

Two bedroom suites continue to lead the way in terms of popularity, accounting for almost 54% of all Yorkville condo transactions. This is becoming an overwhelming trend. The market remains brisk in Canada's most desired address.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and the Urban Land Institute have jointly concluded a recent study on emerging real estate trends. The conclusion is that the 'move-downtown trend', which has emerged in the last few years will continue. More and more Canadians are abandoning their suburban lifestyle and white picket fences for the convenience of downtown life. Yes, the properties are generally smaller, but suburbanites are opting in for the convenience of downtown living (high walk scores, most of Yorkville comes in around 100).

StatsCan in their most recent numbers point to a growth rate of 7.1% in urban centers over the years 2006 to 2011. Time and money spent on lengthy commutes as well as the convenience of core living are reasons that were cited. When compared to cities in the US, we can take considerable pride in the fact our citizens see the cores of our cities as safe and desirable places to live. 

When it comes to core living, the old adage "don't wait to buy real estate, buy real estate and wait" is the creed I live by. 

Give me a call and let's discuss how you too can take advantage of the convenience and investment potential of core living.

Until next time,

Matt Smith*, MBA
*Real Estate Representative

o: 416-975-5588   m: 647-929-7674

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