Continuing our ongoing investigation of commercial real estate in Toronto, we find out what’s in store for a reconstructed block of Queen West that’s ready to be rented out once again.
Location: 327-333 Queen St. W. (Queen and Beverley)
Formerly: Four different stores once stood in the place of this massive property before they were torn down: 241 Pizza, clothing stores Cool and Borderline, and Supremetronic Inc. There was also a vacant lot to the west of Supremetronics. (Click here for a photo of what the property used to look like.)
Size: 18,000 sq. ft., spread over three floors and a basement.
Price: $110 per sq. ft. per year (or a whopping $1.98 million annually)
Length of Lease: 10-20 years
Renovations required?: Over the past five years the new building, which is now nearly finished, was painstakingly constructed to resemble a modern version of the old historical buildings that once stood on the site. The property now boasts nearly 60 feet of frontage, with 12-foot ceilings inside and double-height ceilings at the entrance. Currently an empty shell, the space will afford future tenants the ability to make small internal renovations (painting, flooring, lighting, etc.) to suit their needs.
False starts: According to CBRE Vice President Stuart Smith, the property has a storied history: The land was originally purchased nearly a decade ago by Paul Marciano, fashion designer and co-founder of Guess? Inc., with the intent of putting a flagship Marciano clothing store in a grandiose steel-and-glass structure on the lot. Despite the fact that one of the buildings on the site was nearly condemned by the city, Smith says that Marciano had three building permits rejected and it took him nearly four years to get the final permit passed. However, as he wasn’t able to build a store to his desired specs, he apparently decided to abandon his original plan.
Ward 20 Councillor Adam Vaughan tells a slightly different story. According to him, the only stipulation that Marciano was asked to change was in regards to building materials. “The whole thing got approved very quickly and was built very quickly,” he says. “And the only negotiating was about a five-minute conversation I spent on the phone with a guy in Los Angeles because they originally wanted stucco and we asked them to use brick. This [building] was processed virtually quicker than anything else on Queen Street.” And despite the fact that the original properties were historically designated, it was essentially “demolition by neglect” that caused them to come down and make way for the new building.
What’s happening with it now?: Now that the new property is nearing competition, there has been great interest in the space, no doubt because it boasts one of the biggest retail spaces available on Queen West. However, most offers have been rejected because they were predicated on the ability to cut the space up into smaller units.
The realtors, obviously, would prefer one big tenant to take over the entire property, though they would entertain the idea of slightly dividing it, so long as there was a big enough chunk taken to “drive the property,” as Smith puts it. As for what kind of retailer the owner is looking for, Smith says a first-to-market retailer or a flagship store would be preferred. And although big fashion brands (like Zara and H&M) always seem to be welcome in new, large Queen West properties, expect to find hip home-accessorizing retailers—perhaps following a precedent set by the new CB2—flocking to the Queen West in the coming years. “It’s not rocket science,” says Smith. “The kids of the baby boomers grew up. They’re done with their clubbing years and are moving into downtown condos. Toronto has been very under-retailed in this way, but the space is becoming available for us to address that.”