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Sneak Peek: First Capital’s Yorkville Village Revamp

Toronto Retail

First Capital Realty is nearly done its $100M transformation of Hazelton Lanes into Yorkville Village. “We’ve essentially created a new mall within a mall,” development SVP Jodi Shpigel tells us. “Which is not an easy thing to do.”

We snapped Jodi in the main hall, which features a new glass ceiling treatment and no more brick arches. First Capital bought the shopping centre in 2011, and the project she’s overseen has involved a complete renovation, with 5k SF more high-end retail added to the 210k SF of existing space. A new Equinox Fitness on the second level opens by year's end, and a double-height glass facade has been added along Avenue Road, improving access to the centre’s street-facing retailers. First Capital also bought several properties to the east and has torn one down to create a new entrance from Yorkville Avenue (below).

Hazelton Lanes used to be the centre of all things retail in Yorkville, Jodi points out. “But then the neighbourhood evolved and the mall didn’t, and that’s where things were when we bought it.” Former owners attempted to renovate, though “nowhere close to the extent we’ve done.” (First Capital replaced all mechanical systems, too.) Jodi says the Yorkville Village redevelopment is a game changer primarily because it’s created new connections to surrounding streets. “That’s what this mall's been lacking over the decades. It’s kind of like it has its back to the community.”

Visitors coming off Avenue previously had to go up or down stairs to enter the mall. “It was this off-grade situation,” says Jodi. “A lot of buildings in Yorkville have that condition, but it didn’t make sense from a retail perspective.” So First Capital extended the facade to the sidewalk and leveled the entryway. “Now we’re accessible to all people. You can walk in and go up or down with an elevator or escalator—like a typical mall.” The revamp is a boon for Yorkville Village’s existing tenants, but Jodi tells us it’s also aimed at attracting retailers “who aren’t in the area who could do well here. There’s a variety of targets.”

Over in Liberty Village, construction has begun on King High Line, a mixed-use community at 1100 King St W that First Capital is developing in partnership with Urbancorp. The project—named for the proposed extended pedestrian bridge that would connect Parkdale, Liberty Village, King and Queen Street West—includes 160k SF of commercial-retail space and three residential towers with 506 rental units. (CAPREIT has taken a stake in the project and will manage the residential component.) The retail will be open by 2018 and the mix, like at most of First Capital’s 157 properties nationwide, will be grocery-anchored.

First Capital is also redeveloping 3080 Yonge St, a '70s-era office building that's strategically situated atop Lawrence subway station. Its central courtyard/atrium will be filled in, and two levels of retail created, anchored by a national grocery store. Meanwhile, First Capital is refining its plans to modernize Humbertown Shopping Centre, adding retail and office space at the base of five new residential buildings. Like Yorkville Village, the projects highlight First Capital’s mixed-use focus, Jodi says, noting the company has 24.5M SF GLA across the country. “That represents a huge base for looking at how we can add density and other uses.”