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Hazelton Lanes shopping mall set for major makeover

Posted by Chris Bateman / August 28, 2013

toronto hazelton lanesThe owners of the Hazelton Lanes shopping centre, Yorkville's original high-end mall, are planning a major upgrade that could see the Avenue Road building gutted and extensively remodelled in the hope of attracting more upscale retailers to the neighbourhood.

According to a series of architectural renderings released earlier this month, the dated brick split-level facade would be replaced by a two-storey glass box with room for a pair of retail outlets on the ground floor if new owners First Capital get their way.

Inside, the existing atrium will get a brand new circular skylight and the floor-plan will be radically altered to accommodate a greater number of smaller stores. It appears from the drawings that the residential units will remain untouched, at least on the outside.

toronto hazelton lanesInterestingly, the planned renovation of Hazelton Lanes seems to have been combined with separate proposal for the street corner just to the south.

The latest drawings of 140 Yorkville Avenue show the shopping mall's new glass facade connecting seamlessly with a planned 35-storey condo. If approved, the tower will replace a cluster of converted Victorian homes on the corner of Avenue and Yorkville and add new retail of its own.

The plans for Hazelton Lanes, which haven't been formally filed with the city, also call for the demolition of a building on Yorkville Avenue, currently home to a Subway restaurant and an art gallery, to make way for a new entrance and outdoor space.

toronto hazelton lanesThe original multi-million dollar Hazelton Lanes building opened in 1976, offering trendy boutique shopping beneath two low-rise luxury condominiums.

A total of 57 residential units, which started at $72,000 ($283,000 in today's money,) were built in the staggered buildings between Avenue Rd. and Hazelton Ave.. The marketing material targeted CEOs of international businesses looking for a Toronto pied-à-terre.

As if to illustrate the development's ritzy status, the Toronto Star reported with interest the sale of the most expensive unit, priced at an eye-opening $500,000 ($2 million in 2013 money,) when it was snapped up by an anonymous buyer seven months before the grand opening.

The 465 square metre unit came with five baths (with European-style bidets,) three fireplaces, a conservatory, and sauna as standard, but the buyer and those interested in other units were encouraged to customize their homes during the building process. "A bachelor tenant asked if the shower could take three people," Richard Wookey, the developer responsible for the project, remarked in 1976.

toronto hazelton lanesBefore it was finished, Hazelton Lanes it had already overtaken the new Harbour Square on Queen's Quay as the toniest address in the city. The first retail tenants included Hermes, Visage Cosmetics, Roots, Windsor Jewels, and a Royal Bank branch, but the centre never seemed to quite live up to expectations. Today, U.S. supermarket Whole Foods is the anchor tenant.

Yorkville has been through several sea changes in its history. Once a separate village, the area became the centre of Toronto's counter-culture scene in the 1960s, incubating talents like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Margaret Atwood, and Dennis Lee, before morphing a little awkwardly - Star writer Nicholaas Van Rijn called Yorkville "a tart decked out in finery above her station" in 1976 - in to the city's ritziest locale.

If the list of planned developments is any guide, the biggest changes for Yorkville are still to come. Several new high-rise condominiums are planned for the blocks between Bay and Yonge, one of which could mean the loss of the CIBC tower. The arrival of the Four Seasons and loss of the Cumberland Cinema to a Nespresso boutique are just two of the apparently endless changes for the chameleonic neighbourhood.

What do you think of the proposed new look for Hazelton Lanes? Is now an ideal time to make-over the aging shopping centre? Will new retailers be able to turn the business around?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Images: Kasian/First Capital Realty



Sean / August 28, 2013 at 04:38 pm
Sears Canada
Tulse / August 28, 2013 at 05:47 pm
Those renders make it look like a generic mall, and not an upscale destination. This design changes the entire feel and not in a good way.

(And boy,does that original ad have one heinous font.)
Hazel / August 28, 2013 at 07:38 pm
Arggh! It was perfectly charming before. But no one takes that into consideration anymore. Another example is Village by the Grange. Architectural gurus - Christopher Alexander and Jane Jacobs come to mind - know that hidden alleys, uneven cobblestones, quirky design, warm building materials make urban life better and more fulfilling. Peace out.
Cynthia / August 28, 2013 at 08:23 pm
Hazelton Lanes needs a proper restaurant again. I miss the old-old restaurant that used to be where TNT is now. In the 90s, I often went there for lunch with my mom on weekends and during the holidays. There was a small skating rink in the winter - where Oval Square is now.
Sean / August 28, 2013 at 08:27 pm
Sears Canada should get in there at the prebuild price.
Geoff / August 28, 2013 at 08:31 pm
Looks like any other Bloor St shopping destination. Does it not remind you of Holt Renfrew? Was hoping for something a little more unique and upscale.
IliveattheVerve / August 28, 2013 at 09:59 pm
suburban banality hits Yorkville. zzzzzzz....
LV / August 28, 2013 at 10:19 pm
This may be too early to know, but would Whole Foods be staying after the reno?
local replying to a comment from Tulse / August 29, 2013 at 09:53 am
Classic 70's-era font. It was everywhere.
HeritageLover / August 29, 2013 at 09:59 am
So their gonna knock down some Victorian facades to make way for glass and steel condos? Wtf? Can Toronto maintain any vintage character?
Tulse replying to a comment from local / August 29, 2013 at 01:44 pm
"Classic 70's-era font."

Are the points that drop below the baseline just an artifact of the printing, or scanning of the original? Because that's what seems absurd to me, although if they're not part of the actual font I stand corrected.
Laura / August 29, 2013 at 03:27 pm
This mall is hurting and desperately needs a makeover. I like the renderings.
Laura / August 29, 2013 at 03:28 pm
PS - Even if it looks like a big Apple store...
local replying to a comment from Tulse / August 30, 2013 at 08:13 pm
Hahahaha! I hadn't noticed that. Hazelton Lanes meets Twilight. Of course it would seem absurd if it were intentional, but no, that's definitely a blotch in the scanning process.
Greg / September 3, 2013 at 11:03 am
The renderings look great, a much needed makeover for this iconic corner. It's fantastic how this area in Toronto changes over the years, and always for the better.
George "The Gorge" Dracoulis / October 21, 2013 at 03:57 pm

It's October 21 2013 Happy fisting day!.
Michael Mendelson / March 11, 2014 at 05:38 pm
From the drawings, this appears to be one more mall that could be anywhere in the city and lacks any reflection of the character of Yorkville. This design is about as plain vanilla as I can imagine. I think I have seen several dozen almost exactly like it, right down to the big, circular skylight. The 'toniest' neighbourhood will no longer be tony if every small Victorian building is replaced by a glass and steel condo/mall. How do you think this will look ten years from now? The mall does need to be redone and the idea of many stores with small square footage is great (excepting Whole Foods - which is really necessary in the area as there are more and more residential units) but it needs some originality and creativity. How about a design competition?
Local / April 18, 2014 at 10:50 am
I echo many of the comments not much creativity shown as far as inside or exterior design Not a upscale design very cold looking inside with no Yorkville character . If I was a retailer not sure I would find it attractive place to do business. As a consumer nothing would attract me to this mall over any other any other mall .However it is better than I what is there at present which is not saying much. Long term in my view it will remain a retail waste land .
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