Could Liberty Market condo lead to a retail exodus?
The 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.
Despite 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