“Toronto’s Distillery District is constantly evolving in aesthetics and appeal,” says Mathew Rosenblatt, partner and owner at Cityscape Development Corp.
The history-rich neighbourhood was the subject of a hot debate in recent years when it faced a proposal from Cityscape and Dream Developments – first submitted in 2011 – that would see a 34-storey condo tower and an 88-suite Gansevoort Hotel transform the former 6-story rack house at 60 Mill Street and the building at 31R Parliament St.
The City opposed both proposals and appealed to the OMB and – to the collective relief of the surrounding community – the development has now been reduced to a 12-storey, 40-metre building and the hotel component has been nixed. Regardless, its threat got people contemplating the future of the neighbourhood.
So, we asked Rosenblatt what’s really going down in The Distillery District.
While a source of frustration for the residents with its crazy congestion, the always Instagrammable Toronto Christmas Market won’t disappear anytime soon. “We’ll be doing the Christmas Market again, but will be evolving it and adding a few new things,” says Rosenblatt. Returning for a second year is also the Toronto Light Festival, which Rosenblatt says will be “a little more layered” next year. “Instead of just lights, there will be some other stuff too – I can’t yet say what it is, but it will be a deeper experience,” he says.
Rosenblatt says we can expect another “blockbuster festival” within the next few years. Though the details are hush-hush, it will last for at least a week. As for the shorter, weekend-long festivals, there will be no shortage this summer. “We are doing a lot of weekend festivals. Some have yet to be announced – but stay tuned to our website,” says Rosenblatt.
In the immediate future, the newly opened Spirit of York distillery is now a major draw to the neighbourhood. True to the spot’s storied history of spirit making, the sleek, 7,200 square foot space houses locally sourced ingredients and world-class distillation equipment to produce small batch gin and vodka. Come late summer, what Rosenblatt calls “a cool new spot” will take over the Stone Distillery, the real estate previously occupied by Tappo for the past decade. Rosenblatt can’t reveal too much about the concept. “The designers are working away,” he says. “It will be pretty exciting. It’s a beautiful space; the walls bleed history and it will respect the past, but with an interesting and modern twist.”
Over the next year, Rosenblatt says we’ll see some additional retailers open up shop – “clothing stores and such,” he says, along with a Deciem cosmetics boutique.
As for the decade, there are some big plans in the works. “We’re looking at expanding the retail at The Distillery, adding additional pedestrian streets, and more residential density in the area,” says Rosenblatt. “All of these will add to a deeper experience. It will result in more people on the street, which will allow for new types of retailers that are niche enough that they are worth leaving your neighbourhood and coming down to The Distillery.”
“You definitely won’t see the typical types of retailers or restaurants that are on every street corner,” says Rosenblatt. “There will be more independent, more high quality shops that just do things differently than franchises or multinationals. It’s not a mainstream experience and certainly not a mall experience.”
As for the residents, Rosenblatt says that the new developments in and around the Distillery will have more bedrooms so if people want to raise more mature families, they can.
Well some residents may not like the development and seasonal chaos of the Distillery, Rosenblatt says that it was always part of the plan. “When we started developing the Distillery in 2001, made it very clear that these are the types of things that we would be doing, and the people who were generally moving down to the neighbourhood were doing so to have an active, culturally dynamic neighbourhood,” says Rosenblatt. “For some residents, it might be too much, but we really try to listen to comments and criticisms of all the stakeholders to adjust and make it a better place for everyone.”
What do you think about the new plans for the Distillery District? Let us know in the comment section or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.