Vibrant, energetic, stylish, elegant, pricey and fashionable. All of those adjectives describe Toronto’s Yorkville district. The area including Bloor Street and the streets directly north, west of Yonge Street and east of Avenue Road is without a doubt the most expensive retail real-estate in Canada. All the usual suspects are there from Prada to Tiffany and all the other luxury brands. The easiest way to get there is by subway; get off either at the Bloor-Yonge stop and walk west along Bloor Street or at the Bay Street stop and take the Cumberland exit.
Yorkville was the epicentre of Toronto’s 1960s bohemian love-in. It was an area teaming with talent and inspiration full of coffeehouses and a vibrant arts community. The Riverboat Coffeehouse which was located at 134 Yorkville was where you could have heard Canadian icons Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Bruce Cockburn and Murray McLauchlan in their youth. The Toronto establishment at the time didn’t think too highly of this counter-culture area and one MPP referred to it as “a festering sore in the middle of the city”. Of course that probably made it even more attractive for young hippies of the time.
Development accelerated along Bloor Street following the opening of the Bloor Street subway in 1966 and the new Canadian luxury leader Holt Renfrew’s flagship store built in the 1970s. This upward mobility put pressure on bohemian Yorkville which lies just north of Bloor and the coffeehouses and private Victorian homes were squeezed out and taken over by boutiques and restaurants.
Yorkville isn’t just a faceless “mall” experience it is a true neighbourhood with variety and personality. The area now is a not-so-harmonious architectural mix of charming original Victorian row-houses turned into galleries or antique stores and unsightly in-fill retail stores. Add in high-end, high-rise residential developments and you have the makings of a dynamic neighbourhood.
For sure some of the best people watching in Toronto is from the benches in Yorkville Park on Cumberland Avenue. On a warm evening you will see a steady stream of expensive cars and fashionable, trendy people on display. During the Toronto International Film Festival in September anything is possible with celebrity sighting a regular occurrence.