Way back when, Toronto’s waterfront and core comprised heavy industrial factories and facilities, including the King West area located west of Spadina Avenue. That area’s largest trade was the rag trade – fashion and textiles. Eventually these industries moved out, but the area wasn’t zoned to bring in office or retail tenants, as the area was zoned for trade – not business.
That changed in the 1990s when the mayor made the smart move to eliminate the industrial zoning, clearing the way to attract the booming tech sector. The change opened the door to a complete revitalization of the King West core. Today, that area boasts 1.4 percent vacancy – lower than any other core in North America, according to the project tour hosts of the King West tour at NAIOP’s Commercial Real Estate Conference 2015 – and the rents continue to rise.
Since you weren’t likely one of the lucky 40 conference attendees on this exclusive tours, I captured some of the highlights for you. Read on to learn more.
- Population in Toronto’s urban core is rising. More than 150,000 have moved into the booming condo market here since the 1990s, and that is expected to double in coming years.
- No cars needed – or wanted – here. More than 80 percent of the people (read: Millennials) who live in the King West area walk to work. What does this mean for infrastructure? Wider sidewalks and more bike lanes, please.
- We toured 545 King Street, developed by Hallmark Realty Ltd., and home today to BrightLane, a marketing firm, and a co-working center. Hallmark renovated the building in 18 months – a complete replacement of mechanical and electrical systems, and added a fully accessible rear entry to the office space. The sloped, original wood floors add character to this open space, glass walled office, complete with a large eat-in kitchen and a cool patio workspace.
- The Well is a future Class A lifestyle center with high-rise residential, office, and outdoor retail that may be shielded by an innovative glass covered walkway. The space will offer flexibility for space and design, and retail will be largely focused on fashion. The Well adds 1 million square feet of office to a part of the city with literally no vacancy, and the buildings will be healthier, more efficient and smarter. Tighter too – space per person in office will hover somewhere around 110 square foot per person.
Kathryn Hamilton is Vice President for Marketing and Communications at NAIOP Corporate.