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Dining Out at 20 Edward Street

A "restaurant row" may be on its way to the site of the World's Biggest Bookstore.

When the closing of the World’s Biggest Bookstore was announced last year, many people grumbled that the site would follow the stereotypical Toronto redevelopment pattern and become a condo tower. Its prime location certainly left little chance the building would revert to its original use as a bowling alley. But based on renderings released yesterday, future customers of 20 Edward Street might continue to browse literature there, in the form of restaurant menus.

Paracom Realty Corporation, the leasing agent for new site owner Lifetime Developments, is pitching a “restaurant row” concept to potential tenants. The building, which has housed World’s Biggest Bookstore since November 1980, will be demolished and replaced by four restaurants. Paracom intends to fill the spaces with eateries fitting the neighbourhood’s upward shift. “We’re not thinking $100 dinners,” Paracom president Bernard Feinstein told the Star, “but something that is better than a fast-food chain.” Feinstein’s idea of “something” appears to be less Big Slice and McDonald’s, more upscale casual-dining chains like The Keg.

Renderings by Turner Fleischer Architects show the current solid red-and-white frontage replaced with large glass windows and second-storey patios. It’s an inviting look for the target audiences of Audi owners, local office workers, pre-show diners, shoppers, and tourists. Promotional materials play up the site’s proximity to transit and nearby attractions like the Eaton Centre and Massey Hall.

Local councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre–Rosedale) feels the proposal fits into a long-term strategy of revamping Yonge Street from Yorkville to the waterfront, and transforming it into “the most dynamic shopping and entertainment cultural corridor in the city.” Though cautious about whether Edward Street will receive a restaurant row or see other retail fill the site, Wong-Tam welcomes the concept. She views this proposal and the announcements regarding high-end retailers Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue as signs of a prosperous city core. “This is a sign of success,” she said in a phone interview yesterday. “Bloor-Yorkville is so successful that we’re starting to see some of that success come down to Yonge Street. We can start to see a second cluster of high-quality retailers come out. That’s how international downtowns compete, whether it’s New York City or Chicago. We don’t compete based on BIA boundaries—we compete based on the fact that we have the best quality downtown neighbourhood.”

The promoters of 20 Edward Street aim to have the tenants of their “culinary mecca” in place for the 2015 edition of TIFF. The World’s Biggest Bookstore will remain in business until March 23.


  • OgtheDim

    Looks like something set on the outside of a mall.

    • dsmithhfx

      Noooo. Signage is an exclusive, 5-star American restaurant chain serving burgers, soft drinks and fries a la carte.

  • disqus_FwYIk2409G

    Will be awesome on those patios staring at the asshole of The Atrium, as the endless stream of delivery, courier and garbage trucks motor their way in and out all day long.
    Enjoy !

  • SonuvaScrimbro

    Not the worst idea they could come up, but I’m wondering if we’re missing out on something better. There’s no shortage of places to eat downtown, and places like the Keg are common enough that going to that one won’t be much of an experience for most of us… why not consider options for that space that are more likely to bring more tourists into the downtown mix? Think of Times Square, where restaurants and theatres and shops with tourist appeal (like the M&Ms store) are side by side. No reason why we can’t mix it up a bit instead of having a bunch of chain eateries that anyone can find at their nearest suburban power centre.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      Edward St is a stone’s throw from the single most popular tourist attraction in the city, the Eaton Centre.

  • VictorianShuter

    It sounds like they want to replicate what’s happening on nearby Elm Street. They might want study Elm Street closer: their restaurant strips are mostly picturesque repurposed buildings, not ugly big-box architecture.

    • Paul Kishimoto

      Not a word from me in the support of boxes, but TWBBS is clearly one itself, and would continue to be even if repurposed. Picturesque buildings from scratch would require Wong-Tam et al. to play hardball with the developer, which I certainly hope they’ll do.

  • Astin44

    Keg/Canyon Creek, Kelsey’s/Casey’s/Montana’s are likely options.

    Jack Astor’s, Milestones, Red Lobster, St. Louis Bar and Grill, and Pickle Barrel are already nearby, but it’s possible one of them might choose to move.

    Also possible that we see something like what’s up at The Aura – higher-end restaurants that are part of a “family” of chains, but less common or disguised as independent locations.

    I’d love to see one of those spaces turned into a nicer Kensington-style food court where small, independent cooks can try their hand in a popular area but with lower costs. Maybe even a second tier option where people with food truck/stall/TUM experience can set up something a bit more formal on their way to a full restaurant.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    I guess Sign has given up its fight for a spot near Kensington Market…

  • tomwest

    Four resturants does not a “row” make.

    • Andrew

      It’s good enough for Connect Four.

      • tomwest

        We played Connect Five as children. Connect Four is just too easy.

  • Torontopoly

    Some other sources referring to this news are reporting that Lifetime developments sees this as a short to mid-term plan with a much bigger proposal to come 5+ years from now. This is not a permanent solution. I think this is one of the rare cases in Toronto where the proposal is underdevelopment for a highly valuable piece of real estate. It looks like it’s more of a placeholder though.