Everything You Need to Know for Moving to the Distillery District
The Distillery District is one of the most exciting and vibrant neighbourhoods in Toronto. Located just east of the downtown core, the historic Distillery District has the largest collection of Victorian-era industrial architecture in North America. The neighbourhood is an incredibly popular tourist destination with people coming from all over to see the historic buildings and art instillations, most famously the “big heart” located on the west side of the Distillery District. The neighbourhood has become a sought-after residential landing spot for young professionals who want to live in an area with a strong character and wonderful amenities while still being near Downtown Toronto.
Where is the Distillery District?
The Distillery District sits between Parliament Street and Cherry Street with Mill Street as the northern boundary and the Gardiner Expressway as the southern boundary. The Distillery District is situated just east of Downtown Toronto and is a short walk away from the CN Tower.
Getting around the Distillery District
The Distillery District is located just north of the Gardiner Expressway which can connect motorists to the Don Valley Parkway north towards North York and Scarborough or west towards the city centre and Etobicoke. The Distillery District also has wonderful access to public transportation. The Cherry Street LRT line has a loop on the east end of the Distillery District and then travels along King Street straight into the downtown core. The Lakeshore LRT connects the Distillery District to Union Station. There is also TTC bus service on Parliament and Front Street East making the neighbourhood extremely commuter-friendly for people working downtown.
A brief history of the Distillery District
The Distillery District began in earnest in 1832 when brothers-in-law James Worts and William Gooderham founded the Gooderham and Worts Distillery in the area. The business grew rapidly and in 1859 present day distillery was built, which has survived intact as the largest and best-preserved collection of Victorian Industrial Architecture in North America. The outbreak of World War I and the institution of Prohibition took a toll on the business. This ultimately led to the sale of the Gooderham and Worts distillery in 1923 to Harry Hatch. In 1990, after 153 years in business the distillery ceased operations. However, the distillery would find a new life as a popular filming destination with more than 1700 movies using the historic buildings as a backdrop for scenes.
In 2001, the 13-acre site encompassing more than 40 historical buildings was transformed into a residential neighbourhood incorporating workspaces, art galleries, restaurants, and shops. The Distillery Historic District is perfect example of how history and architecture preservation can be achieved while at the same time incorporating new elements that benefit the entire community. Work was completed and the district reopened to the public in 2003. The new owners refused to lease any of the retail and restaurant space to chains or franchises, so most of the buildings were occupied with boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, jewellery stores, cafés, and coffeehouses. The upper floors of several buildings have been leased to artists as studio spaces and to office tenants with a creative focus.
The types of homes in the Distillery District
There are several residential condominiums sprinkled amongst the historic buildings in the Distillery District. The three most recent condos are the Pure Spirits, Clear Spirit, and Gooderham. These steel and glass condominiums towers were all constructed in the early 2010s. All three buildings were designed by award winning architect Peter Clewes, who incorporated an ultra contemporary design aesthetic to the look of the towers. Condominium units in the neighbourhood range in size from approximately 500 square feet to 1500 square feet with 9-foot ceilings. The amenities in these condominiums include indoor state-of-the-art fitness facilities, saunas, media rooms, outdoor terraces, swimming pools, hot tubs, and lounge areas.
Just west of Parliament Street there is the Caroline Co-Operative, which is a cooperative housing community built in the 1980s with sixty stacked apartments and townhomes. This community is within walking distance of the Distillery District and offers a more affordable housing option for individuals and families that still want to live in the area.
There is a massive new condominium development currently underway in the Distillery District.
The No. 31 Condos is a new development by Lanterra Developments and will be located at Parliament Street and Mill Street. The new condominium complex will have nearly 500 units and come with a whole host of amenities including a 50-foot-long pool and lounge with view of the CN Tower, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, a roof garden, an outdoor space with a reflecting pavilion and a unique sunken fireplace that allows the residents to relax and enjoy the vibrant neighborhood. The No. 31 Condos are expected to be completed in 2024.
Making the move to the Distillery District
The Distillery District is one of the most popular neighbourhoods in all of Toronto and the prices reflect that demand. The condo market in the Distillery District is incredibly competitive, so if you are looking to move to the Distillery District area, you should act as soon as possible. While many of the buildings in the neighbourhood are newly built and have a slew of amenities, one of the downsides to living in a condo is a possible lack of storage space, which is where renting a self-storage unit can be extremely helpful.
Currently, Storwell Self Storage is offering my clients an exclusive offer of 4 week of free self-storage at any of their facilities. Storwell has locations across the GTA in Mississauga, Scarborough, and one location near Kipling and the Gardiner Expressway which is less than a half hour drive from the Distillery District. If you need self-storage to declutter your space and help organize your home, you can call a Storwell Representative or visit a facility to demo a unit.
Things to do in the Distillery District
The Distillery District is a very pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood. You can stroll the Distillery pathways and discover Sculpture Park, which is a random placement of 10 sculptures from a variety of artists that serve as pedestrian markers. The Distillery District host several festivals and events during the year, the most prominent being their annual Christmas Market. The market features a Santa’s village, pop up shops, a Ferris wheel, and a variety of food vendors. Another popular event held at the Distillery District each year is the Toronto Festival of Lights, which goes from mid January to the beginning of March. The Light Festival offers a visual journey with exhibits highlighting local and international light artists.
Although the Distillery District is in the heart of a major metropolitan centre and has a very industrial feel, it also has access to some excellent green spaces. Parliament Square Park and David Crombie Park are both located just west of the Distillery District. David Crombie Park has two basketball courts, a large children’s playground, and several art murals. Across the street from David Crombie Park is the St. Lawrence Community Recreation Centre. The community centre has a fitness studio, a gymnasium, an indoor pool, two squash courts, and offers a full range of programming for families, children, adults and older adults.
Arts and culture in the Distillery District
The Distillery District is a hub of artistic expression with several art galleries located in the neighbourhood. The Arta Gallery provides an accessible space for artists to showcase their artworks within the Toronto community, offering an eclectic collection of contemporary work by both Canadian and international artists. The Thompson Landry Gallery is a beautiful 2700 square foot space in the Stone Distillery Building, it is the only gallery in Toronto specializing purely in Quebec artists and sculptors. The Corking Gallery focuses on contemporary photography, abstract paintings, and other fine art works showcased in a unique, industrial space.
Another important artistic institution located in the Distillery District is the Soulpepper Theatre Company. Soulpepper is Canada’s leading artist-driven theatre company. The Soulpepper Theatre works hand in hand with George Brown College’s theatre school to provide world-class theatrical training to their students. The Soulpepper theatre is housed in the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, which is a carefully restored 19th-century-era Victorian industrial building.
The Sport Gallery is a unique art gallery that specializes in fine art prints and select paintings from renowned sports artists. The gallery has also expanded to offer a selection of vintage-inspired apparel. If you are an antiques lover, you must visit Blackbird Vintage Finds. Blackbird is an eclectic, uniquely curated gift shop with a vast collection of vintage objects: everything from pharmacy bottles, railway silver, century-old typewriters, small paintings, trophies, to forgotten signage.
The best places to eat in the Distillery District
As the name suggests, the Distillery District is the home of several of Toronto’s premier distilleries and breweries. Mill Street Brewery opened its doors in 2002 with an earth-friendly philosophy and in 2018, they made the conscious decision to evolve their core beers to be Certified Organic. The Spirit of York Distillery’s goal is to craft some of the world’s most premium, best-tasting spirits. You can order their gins, vodkas, and whiskeys online or visit the distillery for a tour and tasting. Izumi Brewery is Ontario’s first sake brewery using traditional Japanese methods and fresh Ontario spring water.
The distillery district also has a wonderful selection of dining options. The Distillery District is the perfect neighbourhood for coffee aficionados. Arvo Coffee serves delicious artisanal coffee drinks in a comfy environment that also hosts monthly live music. Balzac’s Coffee Roasters is a cozy cafe, set in an 1895 pump house with exposed-brick interior, serving coffee drinks and pastries. Arena Coffee Bar is a relaxed craft coffee counter inside a sports memorabilia shop with games and documentaries on TVs.
Cluny Bistro and Boulangerie is a modern French bistro with updated classic fare in an elegant setting. For some of the best Mexican food in the city visit El Catrin Destileria, a trendy, stylish restaurant with elevated Mexican small plates, and a varied tequila menu. Head over to Boku Japanese Eats and Drinks to try their signature ramen dishes. For dessert you can visit Cacao 70 to try from their extensive list of chocolate desserts (from waffles to fondue) and drinks made with a variety of cocoas.
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