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Inside The Plan To Revitalize A Toronto Intersection From All 4 Corners

An aerial view of the intersection of Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue

There are thousands of major intersections in North America's downtowns, but only one whose four corners are all in the same hands. When Slate Asset Management acquired 1 St. Clair E, it gained ownership of all four corners of the intersection of Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue, a bustling crossroads in midtown Toronto. Now, the four corners have become a case study in redeveloping space for a city in flux.

The newly formed "Yonge + St. Clair" Business Improvement Area and Slate have worked together to transform the intersection, which had largely stagnated during the 1980s and 1990s. Slate enticed new retail businesses and dining establishments and commissioned artists to beautify the intersection's buildings. But as the city’s demographics skew younger, and its population concentrates itself ever closer to the city center, the companies are making other investments to position the intersection as a leader in the trends that are shaping Toronto’s new urban landscape.

“While our investment in public art and other aesthetic renovations at Yonge and St. Clair may immediately catch your eye, we’re also working on what’s behind the walls, investing in the infrastructure and digital capacity of these properties to create workspaces that support productivity and innovation,” Slate Asset Management Vice President Management Katie Fong said.

In 2018, Toronto outpaced even the San Francisco Bay Area for tech job growth, and the city’s real estate market has been jumping to respond with a wave of tech-enabled residential and office assets. Meanwhile, the city’s population is growing and inching ever closer to the heart of downtown.

An eight-storey mural by street artist Phlegm, on the west-facing side of Slate-owned 1 St. Clair W.

Fong said Yonge and St. Clair is uniquely positioned to capitalize on these trends thanks to numerous assets ready for repositioning and a wealth of public transit options. Right below the intersection runs North America’s busiest subway line, with the St. Clair streetcar passing above.

The redevelopment of the office spaces around the intersection has also allowed Slate to focus on connectivity and digital experience. Fong said the firm’s strategic focus on customer experience made these obvious focal points.

“The businesses that are driving so much of Toronto’s growth all have mission-critical requirements when it comes to connectivity,” Fong said. “We were the first owner in the area to pursue Wired Certification; we partnered with WiredScore to make sure our properties are prepared for their digital demands.”

To ensure that its buildings are providing the tech infrastructure that tenants need, Slate has Wired Certified all eight of its office assets in the Yonge and St. Clair submarket: the four buildings that sit at the corners of the intersection, as well as 21 St. Clair E and 30, 40 and 55 St. Clair Ave W.

Prioritizing digital infrastructure was especially pivotal for Yonge and St. Clair, which was lagging behind many of its peer neighbourhoods along Yonge Street in terms of new office development, according to Phil Kanfer, WiredScore’s senior director of business development, North America.

The St. Clair streetcar just west of its intersection with Yonge Street

“Many of the buildings around that intersection were constructed in the '60s or '70s, and lacked the infrastructure that any tech tenant would consider a baseline requirement,” Kanfer said. “The types of tenants we see at the centers of rapidly growing neighborhoods can’t function without reliable digital connectivity and in-building mobile coverage.”

By achieving Wired Certification in its assets, Kanfer said, Slate made it clear to current and prospective tenants that they will be supported by a resilient foundation of digital infrastructure.

Fong said meeting the technology needs of office tenants is on the leading edge of Slate’s push to help revitalize the neighborhood.

“Our goal is to make Yonge and St. Clair a livable, workable and walkable place,” Fong said. “If we can future-proof the office tenancy in the neighbourhood for many years to come, we know that dream will come true.”

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and WiredScore. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.