This 19th-century building boasts historical details and modern upgrades—so why, after months on the market, have there been no takers?
Location: 254 King St. E.
Formerly: Visitor Parking, an unfortunately named furniture-store show room.
About the building: Constructed in 1847 by William Noble to house a tavern called the Stagg Inn, this building has hosted a series of hotels, known variously throughout the years as the Red Rose Hotel (around 1880), the Standard Hotel (around 1895), the Princess Hotel (around 1900), and O’Connor’s House (in the 1910s). During the 1890s, the property also functioned as the business premises of Robert Davies, a wealthy Toronto brewer, manufacturer, and horse breeder who was at one time the proprietor of the Don Valley Brick Works; more recently, it was a warehouse for the Drug Trading Company (a precursor to IDA). In the mid-1980s, a series of complex renovations were completed to connect a number of properties in the city block that’s fronted by King, Princess, Adelaide, and Ontario, and since then, 254 King St. E. has been part of the Ontario Design Centre complex, which is made up of old storefronts and warehouses, as well as new buildings.
Vacant Since: April 2012.
Size: In total, there is approximately 7,900 sq. ft of space spread throughout two floors, with 3,200 sq. ft. on the ground floor, and 4,700 sq. ft. on the second floor.
Price: For the entire property, it’s a blended annual rate of $35 per sq. ft., however, the ground floor alone has a retail rate of between $45–$50 per sq. ft. and the second floor has a commercial rate of $16 per sq. ft. (All prices include utilities.)
Length of lease: The landlords are looking for a five-year term minimum.
Renovations required?: When the building was renovated nearly 30 years ago, new plumbing and electrical were installed, and since then it has been well maintained. Right now, the side of the building fronted by Princess Street is covered in scaffolding with a small crew tuckpointing the façade (a process of filing in small gaps to prevent erosion, as well as replacing old bricks) for restoration and to maintain the historical integrity of the building. They will work on the front façade after, and will be finished in six weeks. The interior is currently an empty shell, and will be re-carpeted and repainted before a future tenant takes over. After that, it’s up to a future tenant to customize the interior to their preference (though the landlord needs to approve the design).
False starts: Interest in the space has been immense, with yoga studios, furniture stores (both independent and big box), flooring shops, and restaurants all making inquiries. The problem is, it’s either too big, too small, or too awkwardly configured for most tenants. The ground floor alone is a lot of space for a restaurant to handle, even for a reputable big name chain. Conversely, 8,000 sq. ft. is too small for big-box furniture giants, like Pottery Barn and Urban Barn. “If I just had [the ground floor], this place would have been leased before the old guy moved out,” says realtor Judy Lucas, VP of leasing and asset management for Northam Realty. “Back in the heyday of retail, a large space like this would have been ideal for a show room, but nowadays it’s just too big for most people.”
What’s happening with it now?: For the first four months that it was vacant, the property was advertised as a single unit. However, due to problems with its size, it’s currently being marketed as two separate units: a retail space on the ground floor and a larger second floor office space (which can be accessed by a separate entrance and elevators on Princess St.). However, a division of the property would make renovations more complicated, as the stairwell and open space between the first and second floors would have to be removed and closed up.