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.