Bloor St. West’s retail evolution: ‘A place for all,’ says CBRE insider

December 5, 2023

The opening of a new Browns Shoes store on the fashionable Bloor Street West retail strip is the latest indication that an uptick in leasing velocity may be on the horizon in the upcoming quarter.

“There’s a lot more leasing activity on Bloor Street than one would assume,” says Brandon Gorman, senior-vice president, broker, agency retail group, at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL). “It’s not just what you see from walking the street.”

According to JLL’s Q2 (April 1-June 30) Toronto retail market overview – which looks at average asking rents and availability across retail corridors in the city – the area from Yonge Street to Avenue Road, considered to be the epicentre of luxury retail in Canada, had the highest percentage of available retail space (18.75 per cent) in the city. By comparison, Ossington Avenue (from Queen West to Dundas), which had no retail availability – with the highest asking rent at $222.73 per square foot.

However, the third quarter painted a different picture for Bloor West, with 16.39-per-cent availability and $267.50 average asking rent.

Of the 10 storefronts available from Yonge Street to Avenue Road in Q3, two to three could be leased soon, says Mr. Gorman.

Although rents are increasing, the luxury hub along Bloor is still far from places like Upper Fifth Avenue in New York (49th to 60th Sts.), which, at US$2,000 per square foot, remains the world’s most expensive retail destination, according to a Cushman and Wakefield report, Main Streets Across the World 2023, released in November.

“We’re seeing lots of attention from the big budget players, like LVMH and Richemont,” he says. “If you look on a global basis, we’re still not one of the more expensive submarkets out there.”

Arlin Markowitz, executive vice-president, urban retail team at CBRE says before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a massive amount of vacancy on that stretch of Bloor Street West.

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