Welcome to the Toronto Fashion District / At A Glance
For much of its history, the Fashion District was the heart of Toronto’s textile and garment industries; hence, the name. But after undergoing sweeping revitalization in the late 80’s (and 2000’s), today the title serves less as a nod to the neighbourhood’s manufacturing roots and more a clue into what it’s all about now: the in-fashion place to live, dine, shop and work.
Anchored around the bustling intersection of Queen and Spadina, and criss-crossing multiple streetcar lines, the intimate downtown pocket stretches less than two kilometers yet manages to pack in plenty. A blend of contemporary condo apartments, mid-rise heritage buildings, Queen Street shops, hip King Street West restaurants, nightclubs – and peeking above them all from afar, The CN Tower.
Unlike its neighbours further south, the Fashion District has never been labeled a one-note condo hub.
A favourite among shopaholics and foodies alike, the area’s transformation from manufacturing hub to dynamic downtown district has been more of a balancing act between commercial and residential development. So while the area continues to see numerous condos break ground, high rises are not the end all and be all of the neighbourhood.
The Fashion District’s premier locale coupled with the slew of historic structures in its bounds has also seen it emerge as a popular spot for office space conversions. Companies such as eBay and Brainstation have their Toronto headquarters here; settling into former warehouses turned hip, open concept brick-and-beam workstations.
While some view the recent influx of condos as detracting from the area’s character, others see it as a win, with ultra-modern residences offering a place to live in one of the trendiest spots in town. Almost everyone can agree on one thing however, there’s no better place to bar hop and end the night with a gourmet burger than the Fashion District.
Toronto Fashion District Map
Toronto Fashion District Population
The Fashion District largely appeals to working professional condo dwellers who prioritize location and public transit over square footage – happily settling into tight fitting apartments in order to be steps from everything the city has to offer.
Yet, with almost every major downtown neighbourhood converging in or around the Fashion District, there is certainly a mix of personalities. Blazer-wearing startup directors, suited business people who are either commuting or bar hopping along King Street, window shopping tourists and students all spillover from nearby hoods.
Fashion District residents tend to value an active nightlife and revel in the area’s thriving bar and restaurant scene. Families are few and far between, with most stroller pushing young mothers only passing by to shop or eat. The majority of people who actually live in the neighbourhood’s borders are singles and couples in their 20s to late 30s.
Toronto Fashion District Stores, Restaurants and Lifestyle
Sandwiched between downtown Toronto’s most popular hoods, the Fashion District (along with its borders and lifestyle) often gets blurred with its abutting neighbours. In fact, depending on who you ask, the names King West or Entertainment District may be thrown around long before the Fashion District is ever mentioned outright.
Labels aside, one thing is certainly never confused – the Fashion District is about as centrally located a neighbourhood can get in Toronto and is the epitome of downtown living.
At its northern edge is Queen Street West, one of the city’s most popular retail strips. On a bright day, the street is bustling with sunglass clad shoppers popping in and out of stores lining the street.
Huddled side by side in former red-and brick row-houses, big name brands American Apparel and Urban Outfitters have set up shop here, along with a mix of fashion boutiques, fabric stores, restaurants, indie cafes and hip bars from the likes of The Cameron House. What really sets Queen Street apart is its eclectic nature. It’s common for upscale designer furniture stores and grungy tattoo parlours to be located right opposite of each other.
Just out-of-sight from the area’s mainstream shoppers are signs of Queen Street’s more bohemian roots, including Graffiti Alley – a stretch of vibrant wall-to-wall street art. The hidden alley is a favourite spot among Instagramers.
Image: Adrian Berg/Flickr
A few blocks south on King Street, the neighbourhood abruptly changes gears and takes on a more “yuppie” vibe.
Stylish foodie spots, like Marben and Lee Restaurant, which is helmed by famed chef Susur Lee, draw in big crowds for a post-work bite to eat, cafes get chock full of laptop glaring business people and on weekends, the neighbourhood’s numerous bars and nightclubs get packed. Really packed.
Favourite weekend spots include Spin, a ping pong night club, and The Hoxton, a popular venue for live DJ shows.
Several of the Fashion District’s top hangouts are snuggled into intimate, character filled heritage buildings dating back to the early 19 and 20th centuries. Quantum Cafe, located at the corner of King and Spadina, and Gusto 101 Restaurant are prime examples of how historic buildings have continued to live on with a newfound purpose.
When it comes to more mundane tasks, like weekly grocery runs, residents usually head to one of the neighbourhood’s several specialty food stores and small supermarkets. The Loblaws located at Queen and Portland is the area’s most prominent grocer and features underground parking, wide aisles and a bakery. Numerous health food stores like Noah’s Natural Foods and The Healthy Butcher are also never too far away.
The Fashion District is never short of things to do. Bustling with working professionals heading to work or eating out by day – at night, after work gatherings, date nights and wild Saturdays out among friends usually lead to busy bars and nightclubs.
The one thing that the Fashion District seems to be lacking is parks. Outside of a few leafy street corners and parkettes, the area doesn’t feature any major natural attractions. The good news is the 37 acre Trinity Bellwoods Park is a quick transit ride away in nearby Queen West.
Getting Around the Toronto Fashion District
Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, the Fashion District is among the most pedestrian friendly areas in the city and is always teeming with people moving about on foot. In fact, heading from one end of the neighbourhood to the other is usually achievable in around a 20 minute stroll, or less, if you’re a speedy walker.
When a leisurely walk won’t cut it, rest assured, there is no shortage of public transit options as over half-a-dozen streetcar lines run through the area (many of which operate 24 hours).
The majority of commuters either hop onto the 510 Spadina and 511 Bathurst streetcars, which run north to south, or 504 King, that travels east to west. All three routes take you to downtown hotspots (like Queen West) and nearby subway stations in a brisk few minutes.
It’s worth noting however that while these streetcar lines receive regular service, they are susceptible to stop and go traffic due to the fact they share the road with vehicles. The 504 and 510 streetcars also get extremely busy during rush hour; when chairs rarely sit empty. The good news is that additional routes (including 514 Cherry) are being introduced and new more spacious streetcars have hit the tracks, allowing for a smoother less congested trip.
Commuters who prefer the two-wheel option will be glad to hear there are dedicated bike paths running along both Adelaide and Richmond streets.
The lanes extend the entire width of the neighbourhood and are separated from cars thanks to pylons – so beating traffic is a whole lot easier and safer. There are drawbacks however. For one, potholes are common, so your ride can become bumpy at times. Bikers will also need to get accustomed to dodging cars and taxis which tend to encroach on the path.
The lion’s share of people who live in the Fashion District choose walking, biking or transit over car ownership. And for good reason. Between busy roads, pedestrian heavy cross-walks, pricey parking and numerous one way streets – the idea of owning a car can quickly lose its appeal.
Schools and Daycares in The Fashion District
While it’s true many young families are choosing to raise their kids in walkable, condo neighbourhoods in the city over pricey communities far out in the burbs – the Fashion District isn’t usually high up on their list.
Fashion District’s busy roads, noisy late nights and lack of kid-friendly destinations carry little appeal with families.
That being said, there are a handful of schools dotted around the neighbourhood’s quieter side-streets.
Discovering Minds Montessori, located at 74 Bathurst Street, features a curriculum centred around language, math, art and music for children from 30 months to 9 years of age. Brant Street Daycare-Alpha on Brant Street, near Adelaide and Spadina, is an alternative school that features child-centred programs and after school activities – perfect for busy working parents.
Conventional public school options are available as well, including Ogden Junior Public School. Among Toronto’s oldest schools, Ogden features a total of fourteen classrooms, gym and library facilities as well as day care services.
Ryerson Community School is another public school choice for families in the Fashion District. Located in nearby Chinatown, the school is held in high regard for its emphasis on inclusion and commitment to social justice. The school features a robust extracurricular schedule that includes sports, music and even hip-hop dancing and video making.
A select handful of the city’ top performing private schools, including St. Michael’s Choir and University of Toronto Schools, are located downtown. However, these schools sit well outside of the Fashion District’s borders and are highly competitive to get into.
The Fashion District can work for young couples who are still transitioning into parenthood and are either raising a toddler or have a young one on the way. But for families who have multiple kids and are keen on living in a top school district; it’s best to look elsewhere. This downtown neighbourhood primarily caters to 20 to 30 somethings without kids.
Fashion District Condo Market
Numerous condos are dotted around the Fashion District. Some are tall and conventional, but many are intimate mid rises that embrace a bolder, more inspired look that strays away from cookie-cutter designs.
Freed Developments, in particular, is a builder who has made a mark on the neighbourhood, helming unique residences such as Fashion House Condos – a 12 storey residence with a flashy facade made up of alternating red and white glass cubes.
Primarily geared toward 20 to 30 somethings who value location and amenities over square footage, one bedroom apartments are ubiquitous. Recent sales figures hint that as much as 67 per cent of condos in the Fashion District are one bedrooms while just 27 per cent of units are two beds.
Units also tend to be smaller. 500 to 600 square foot one bedroom apartments are common, while two bedroom suites usually hover just above 800 square feet.
Loft style condos are another trademark of the neighbourhood. In-line with design trends that embrace industrial inspired finishes, many builders have created new condos that include prominent windows, concrete ceilings, slightly taller 9 to 10 foot walls and exposed piping.
The Fashion District is located in the city’s core, and condos are priced accordingly. Apartments tend to ask for upwards of $650 to over $750 per square foot, which is somewhat pricey compared to many other parts of Toronto, but still sits in general first time home buyer territory.
Freehold houses are an extremely rare find in the neighbourhood. Annual sales of detached, semis and townhouses is usually below a dozen, which pales in comparison to the hundreds of condos changing hands in the area every year.
The few family-style houses are either luxury properties that sit around the one to five million dollar mark or renovated commercial spaces intended for retail and office space.
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