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Could Liberty Market condo lead to a retail exodus?

Posted by Chris Bateman / October 29, 2012

toronto liberty market towerThe developer of the Liberty Market Tower, a proposed condo in Liberty Village that's drawn the ire of a group of local residents, says he doesn't expect to break ground for at least five years. According to Brian Brown, Vice President of Lifetime Developments, the company is agreeing new leases with the current tenants of the historic warehouse buildings on East Liberty Street, including Casalife furniture.

"We really don't have a plan or a timeline for this development; it's really a matter of getting the approvals so we have the option of doing something some time in the future when the opportunity makes sense to us," Brown said on the phone Friday afternoon.

It's possible the later start date might alleviate some of the fears of a local campaign group who expressed concern last week about the additional strain new condos would place on the area's roads and infrastructure in an open letter to councillor Mike Layton.

Layton himself worries that Liberty Village's limited number of access roads could prove detrimental to the overall health of the neighbourhood as more high-rise residential buildings are built in the coming years.

toronto liberty market condoDespite Lifetime's assurances that current tenants are secure until late 2017, Casalife, a long-time Liberty Village resident, is looking to move its downtown showroom outside the area, says Robert Whitfield, the principal of the company.

"Judging by what's happening in the neighbourhood and the rents that are being asked for, in four years or five years from now the rent on a per square foot basis will probably be out of reach of a company like mine."

That said, Whitfield says he's considering locations in King East and Summerhill regardless of whether Casalife ends up leaving Liberty Village. A new location at Sherway Gardens is also currently in the works.

In our conversation, Brian Brown of Lifetime Developments revealed Kevin Knott, one of several vocal campaigners against the project, is the former leaseholder of KingWest Fitness, a company Brown says was booted from its location beside Casalife for backed rent, not as a result of the condo proposal.

Expect this one to rumble on for some time yet. Do you think it's a worrying sign that companies are beginning to look away from Liberty Village? Is this fuss over nothing? Weigh in below.

Images: WallmanArchitects/City of Toronto



oh the stupmanity / October 29, 2012 at 09:23 am
"Liberty Village's limited number of access roads"

So what you're saying is when the entire area was a pile of rubble, the f*cking moron city planners + f*cking moron developers failed to anticipate the inevitable traffic from an influx of new residents and failed to create wide enough streets.

Well okay then.
jameson / October 29, 2012 at 09:36 am
That's one persons opinion in regards to limited access roads. What he's referring to is the Front Street Extension. Which was planned for, but cut by a politician.

the lemur replying to a comment from jameson / October 29, 2012 at 10:29 am
It wasn't so much cut by a city politician but that the city decided not to pursue the process of buying the land, which happened to be owned by a councillor.

Blame this guy:
Joe / October 29, 2012 at 10:33 am
Not sure I understand how more residents will somehow lead to a "retail exodus". So far retail has been expanding in liberty village, most of the retail space that's there was empty only 5 years ago. Usually more residents = more retail moving in. This is just a case of NIMBYism by a resident who wasn't paying their rent. BTW, rents going up usually means there's a bigger demand for retail in the area.
scottd / October 29, 2012 at 10:51 am
Not building the Front Street extension was a colossal mistake and evidence that the City cant look more than a year down the road. Everybody who lived down there like me knew that it would become intensified (and what about the Abell street developments a few blocks north)in a big way. I am all for density (too bad Metrolinx wont put in an electric train so LV can have a stop)but one has to face the fact that people still need access.One step forward two steps back.
pete / October 29, 2012 at 11:01 am
This article has nothing to do with the CANCELLED Front Street Extention. There is a new "local" road planned (that will still benefit Mr. Dominelli) to handle the extra traffic in the area.

But, the exodus of smaller independent businesses is VERY likely.

Higher rents mean that only corporate chain/franchises will be able to pay for the privilege of doing business in Libety Village. Allowed to continue, the future of retail in the area will closely resemble an outdoor mall, including penguin statues at the limited access points.

Fear this outcome.
Big Fuckin Mega Boat / October 29, 2012 at 11:02 am
Rob replying to a comment from pete / October 29, 2012 at 11:12 am
Yep, this is what will happen.

It's okay, though. LV residents miss their hometowns of Oshawa and Ingersoll, so a new Fairweather, Cold Stone Creamery, and Bed, Bath & Beyond will be appreciated.
simuls / October 29, 2012 at 11:32 am
This is an unbelievably and gratuitously editorialized headline. Retail exodus? Hardly. Businesses are clamouring to get into Liberty Village - as another poster mentioned - that's why rents are going up. Remember that Casa Life, if they're renegotiating their lease right now, also have a monetary motivation to say "we might leave". In the last few months numerous new, local places have opened, as well as some larger franchises. In addition, the western, employment side of LV has now become the Madison Ave of Canada with several massive relocations of advertising, digital media, etc. solidifying the reputation of the neighbourhood as a creative hub. Before writing two very poor articles on LV, Mr. Bateman should perhaps do a minimum of investigation and collect a few other opinions. It's a neighbourhood that is in flux, but much of this flux will be complete within 2 years. As a tight-knit community, it's as strong as anywhere else I've lived - including Riverdale, Harbord, the Annex or the beaches. Condo haters need to get their heads on straight and realize that this new era of urbanization we're in, while it definitely needs to be better managed, is what's saving Toronto and all the other neighbourhoods in it.
jameson / October 29, 2012 at 11:35 am
Higher rents are unavoidable in a downtown urban area. Rents increasing shouldn't stop the intensification process that creates a more competitive urban space. Building a 5 storey or 6 storey building on these lots would increase the rents. Building anything new (ie intensifying) would increase the rents.

This leads to the question then, what do you do with affordability in an urban city? What about the effects of the taxes they set on rents. Commercial businesses in Toronto pay incredibly high property taxes in relation to residential. Municipalities also need to consider the subdivision process effecting commercial properties. Maybe they need to look at things like business condos at Pacific Mall.

Its happening all around us, the restaurant row situation is exactly same.
bob / October 29, 2012 at 12:26 pm
Welcome to little 905
Zed / October 29, 2012 at 12:28 pm
This area saw its demise when the first condo went up and the name was changed to Liberty Village. As the saying goes, "Build and they shall destroy"
wtf / October 29, 2012 at 01:00 pm
how there's only street car lines that feed this neighborhood, and not a subway stop or go-stop (exhibition every hour doesnt count) blows my mind.
milo / October 29, 2012 at 02:50 pm
i'm amazing at the maggots on this site complaining about the gentrification of this are.

you do realize it was a factory for washing machines 20 years ago, right?

Bodge / October 29, 2012 at 05:51 pm
1 point for Milo. Zed likely still lives in the sewer system like a Ninja Turtle. The area is ripe with prosperity both personally and from the increasing business presence. These increasing levels of disposabal income are captured by those business willing to pay their share of the rent. For those without eco degrees, which is most of the people who hate on gentrification, it takes money to make money.

If you think this area hit its demise when the first condo was built, then move to Hamilton.
Jeff / October 29, 2012 at 09:41 pm
arguing over the internet... awesome.

it's simple - don't like it? move. Like it? stay.

good day.
HA / October 29, 2012 at 10:33 pm
Ya right! "We really don't have a plan or a timeline for this development.." - that's the biggest load of crap I've read yet. That made me laugh out loud...The deception oozes out with this guy!
Me / October 30, 2012 at 02:31 am
Lee / October 30, 2012 at 12:59 pm
FYI there is a bus #63 Ossington the services Liberty Village - it's quiet convenient. The problem with Liberty is the lack of North/South routes. Yes there is a proposal to build another East/West route south of East Liberty Street but who knows when that will actually happen, probably around the same time as the fabled pedestrian bridge (i.e. never). It's a nightmare to get in or out of Liberty right now as the two main arteries Stratchan and Dufferin are undergoing major construction - to bad there was not foresight to stagger it.
HA / November 2, 2012 at 07:36 pm

If you are in doubt about this developers intention, here is yet another peice of evidence...
python garage door opener / March 19, 2014 at 12:05 am
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With the garage door closed, place the ladder below the motor and find the limit switches.

These tend to be the noisiest of doors so bear this in
mind if you have a bedroom above and need to
use the door when people may be sleeping.
Paul aitken / November 9, 2014 at 10:47 pm
The problem, I think, is that too many condos were built without retail on the ground level. Too much demand, not enough supply. All these stupid ground level residential units are not the highest and best use of the space.
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