Does Toronto’s First Major Commercial Lease Signed During COVID Signal a Return to Downtown?
Over the last nine months, downtown Toronto has all but dropped its “hustling” and “bustling” adjectives.
In early March, the tidal wave called COVID-19 could be seen rushing towards the city from afar. Office spaces — typically hosting downtown workers by the thousands — sent their employees home to (relative) safety as the storm crept in.
Spring, summer, and fall saw a transformation in how city-dwellers experience work; many Torontonians transformed corners of their homes into offices, while others realized they could perform just as effectively from out of town. Regardless of how it was done, everyone worked to find some semblance of normalcy amid the upending of their typical day-to-day.
But as the year draws to a close and frost graces the ground on these brisk December mornings, one green bud of hope is pushing through the ice crystals: Downtown’s commercial real estate scene — after sitting idle for the better portion of 2020 — is stirring.
This fall, Menkes Developments Ltd. announced that 100 Queens Quay East will be the new home of Richardson Wealth (formerly Richardson GMP Limited). The transaction has been described as potentially signifying the beginning of Toronto’s office market recovery, as it is the first significant lease the downtown core has seen since COVID-19 struck the city.
“We’re thrilled that Richardson Wealth shares our vision for our newest office development, which will support the transition of returning to physical office space by promoting a healthy work environment,” Peter Menkes, President, Commercial/Industrial at Menkes, said of the undertaking.
The address Richardson Wealth will be moving into is the first phase of Sugar Wharf, Menkes’ vibrant new mixed-use community, which includes office, retail, and residential spaces, as well as Toronto’s first vertically-integrated school and a two-acre public park.
“The site itself is a city within the city,” said Sean Menkes, Vice President, Office/Retail at Menkes. “And we’re on the waterfront, which is perfectly positioned for the post-pandemic world. It’s a true mixed-use neighbourhood.”
While the community will touch both of life’s reigning aspects — work and play — its importance for downtown’s corporate world can’t be overstated. Standing between Cooper and Lower Jarvis streets, overlooking Lake Ontario, the development serves as an integral supporting factor in what Tim Kocur, Executive Director at Waterfront BIA, describes as the augmentation of Toronto’s business district.