Largest retail space in the downtown core close to completely empty - what Bold plans might there be for this space?

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

July 4th, 2017



The changes the city is talking about with their Go Bold plan – not something that is going to happen tomorrow but rather a long long term plan for the growth of the city – runs up against the day to day reality of the commercial world.

Property values are increasing. What made sense for a lot on Brant Street 25 years ago doesn’t make that much sense today. Owners see an opportunity to cash out and they are doing just that. Land prices preclude opening up a retail shop on land that has been purchased at today’s prices.

Elizabeth Interiors - Brant Street sign

Thousands of Burlington homes were decorated and furnished by Elizabeth Interior. What happens to the property next? What would the Go Bold thinking at city hall want to do with such a property?

Elizabeth Interiors, on the corner of James and Brant, is now all but empty. They decamped and are now on Fairview; still some inventory in the Brant Street location along with a smashed window on the James Street side. One doesn’t often see any vandalism on Brant Street.

Elizabeth - closed

Doors closed and the last of the inventory being readied for moving. How many homes in this city has the place furnished?

What is to become of the property that is one of the biggest in the downtown core? It isn’t going to be a restaurant location and it is very unlikely that the property will be something in the six story range favoured by the ward Councillor.

Elizabeths - smashed glass

Double plate glass meant that entry wasn’t made into the building. This type of vandalism is rarely seen in the city.

One developer active in the city explains that putting a building on that location with just six to eight stories means the developer is going to have to create large units with very hefty prices – in the million dollar range – and people who live in that type of unit tend not to add very much to the life and vibrancy of a city.

Something will be done with the property – no one has much to say at this point.

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29 comments to Largest retail space in the downtown core close to completely empty – what Bold plans might there be for this space?

  • Tom Muir


    For knowing absolutely nothing about me, but your defamatory fiction of many false statements, you sure took a long time to say it.

    You don’t know enough to make an opinion about the truthfulness of many of the statements you make about me.

    Amazingly, you also seem to imply that I agree with you, or are projecting agreement with you to me.

    Most everything I say, opinion or not as you would have it, is my analysis and interpretation of what I see in experience and observation.

    I’m sorry you and Pauline take it so offensively that you have to resort to such diatribe.

    What I called Pauline’s anger, or motives, was not her different opinion of events, but her personal dismissal of me, and my opinions.

    Now you too have to resort to ad hominem attack, but with apparent malice on your part. It’s all fallacious.

    I have never attacked your lengthy opinions with such a totally personal dig, and in fact have not commented here at all on your views, except now, for obvious reasons.

    Not much more to say, so no more of your flame throwing, as the Gazette puts it.

    But if you want the last word, it’s yours.

  • Helene Skinner

    Great comments here…make sure City Hall hears from you.

  • Rich

    How does a 16-25 year old afford a condo for $1,000,000? Every condo down here is between $750 to $1100 a square foot.

    This downtown core is predominantly 40 to 75 year olds for a reason. Affordability.

    ALSO – A 25 year old is bored with our downtown too. There is not much action for that age group 😉

    So what is the downtown to you Steve? If it is not for a purchase, or go out for food?

  • steve


    Downtown, never, enters my mind when I’m going to make a, purchase, or go out for food, and I live 3 minutes away by car. Parking is a hassle.

  • Rich

    No one is mentioning the PARKING PROBLEM. Bunton’s Wharf has no visitor parking and 35% of the units have only one parking spot. Everyone parks on the city streets. The Baxter is VERY limited to 8 visitor spots. 360 on Pearl has no visitor parking. The builders in this town have got away with a so much. At the expense of the future of this town.
    Parking is a huge problem.

    Downtown Burlington attracts NO ‘Triple A’ tenants. Why is that? Everything is done with ‘patchwork mentality’ and no common sense to beautification (what beautification?). Trees are cut down and not replaced. Sidewalks are cracked and patched. There is nowhere to get a 10+ year lease as the developers want demolition clauses and will give 3 year leases with a 1 year demolition clause. Without 10 year lease, what kind of tenant will you get? Look around you….there are maybe 3 to 4 prize tenants in our downtown core.

    Celli’s (the restaurant at James and Brant that is referenced by Mac in the above comments that is supposedly closed) is OWNED by the OWNER/DEVELOPER that is building the 27 story building with 183 units and 183 parking spots. It’s all on the inside.

    183 units and 183 parking spots in one condo building – Are you nuts?? This is insanity. THERE is NO PARKING IN THIS TOWN!! You cannot build two bedroom condos and supply one spot per unit.

    Re: bicycle path….what is this for? It is massively wide! I have not seen one bike on it yet! To be honest, I do not understand a ‘concrete bike path’ that empties out into a street. Are we wanting people to get hit by a car? The Martini House and all other businesses over there are now suffering with lack of parking. They lost 9 spots. It’s already hard enough as it is to make money for most retailers with such small margins and now Burlington has made earning money even more difficult for hospitality and retail.

    Elizabeth Interiors is most likely waiting for the right $$ and to sell and get their retirement fund. It may stay vacant for 5 years. Will the City allow that?? Does the city care? Do we care as residents of the downtown core? With the current down turn of the real estate market, and the current saturation of condo units in downtown Burlington, I cannot forsee a massive condo market right now to approve and commence a new build. There is no clear vision for this town and I agree, the developers own it.

    This needs to be re-evaluated and a new plan executed or else we are going to continue to lose good businesses and brilliant business owners in this town.

    Wake up. What do you want to be left with? No vibrant retail? No quality stores, no quality restaurants. This is the economic hub of cities. Watch for the dollar stores opening soon.

    • Bernstein

      Maybe part of the problem is that the majority of the people currently living downtown in the existing condos choose to take the elevator down to their cars and then drive to do their daily and discretionary shopping in other parts of the city, or Oakville. Maybe if there were more people living downtown that were not so reliant on having two, or even one car parked beneath their building, those people would walk 7 minutes up or down Brant Street to do their shopping, and the retail commercial sector would be much healthier and have more variety.

      To me, this issue is reflective of a generational clash. To those of us born in the 70’s and earlier, we have grown up relying on and enjoying the car for many things. We can’t imagine not having our own car or two at the ready for whatever we want to do. But talk to an 16 to 25 yr old today. A lot of them don’t even have a driver’s license. A lot don’t even desire to own a car. They walk or ride their bike. They take Uber to go further distances. They rent a car for the weekend to go out of town, or car share to do a grocery store or Ikea trip. It is just such a paradigm shift that is starting to occur.

      So who should cities plan for? The 65-75 yr old couple with their two cars that is able to retire downtown to a nice two bedroom million dollar condo? Or is it the recent post secondary grad that wants to live in a walkable community, close to amenities and paths. The answer in my view is both, as we transition from one paradigm to another. But make no mistake, the shift will eventually happen. Probably after those complaining about it have left this earth.

      As I posted above, Burlington downtown needs to become more vibrant to survive and thrive. More of the same (8-15 story towers priced for well off retired seniors and their 1.5 cars) is a recipe for failure. That approach has given us the existing retail commercial situation in the downtown. More young people living downtown in the core that rely less on the car, and more on walking or biking 5-10 minutes to grab some groceries, to dine, to get their hair cut, to go to a book store, to watch a movie etc etc will be what eventually saves Burlington’downtown. It will not be the 40 and older crowd complaining about how hard it is to find parking in Burlington.


    Really.Really..who carezzz

  • steve

    Ahhhh, for the good ole days, when the property was P-Wee’s Pizza.

  • Bernstein

    Some of views being expressed here are pretty disappointing, but not unexpected. Sadly, there is a relatively significant (but hopefully declining through education or attrition) segment of the “old Burlington” crowd that holds both racial and economic prejudices against people that are not as fortunate or don’t look the same as them.

    I wonder how much of the opposition to development of higher densities in Burlington is related to the perception of the people who may occupy the units, as opposed to the height or density of the development itself.

    The downtown needs a whole mix of people, young and old, well off and starting out, in order for it to be vibrant and thriving. Getting that mix of people downtown will require some density. All high rise? Hopefully not. Blocks and blocks of 4-8 stories? Hopefully not that either. I would rather see some tall buildings in some areas, and then other forms of development like low rise or heritage buildings in other areas.

    Right now, Burlington downtown has old and relatively well off people living in it, for the most part. Look around downtown, that mix is not working.

    The original commenter is just plain wrong on a number of counts. Someone fortunate and working hard earning $120K will use infrastructure just as much, if not more, than someone making less money. The fact that a person working as a “barista, server or landscaper” does not have housing options in the downtown is an urban planning problem. The downtown will not thrive if all of the new units constructed are geared to older well off people that can afford million dollar condos.

  • William

    Burlington’s downtown vibrancy is imperiled if we let the highrise condo developers re-develop the core. They know how to sell one product – condominium units; they know little about creating vibrant shopping or restaurant districts. The newer downtown developments retail at ground floor mostly offer basic services like real estate, dry-cleaning or a small pharmacy. The best downtown shopping and restaurants remain in the older buildings.

    The Pearl and Pine retirement building didn’t even bother to lease out its ground floor retail spaces even though it’s designed to do so. It’s nothing more than a faceless facade at street level. Village Square is doing the heavy lifting along Pine Street.

  • James

    Perfect location for 25 storeys of 1 and 2 bedroom condo units, ideal for those starting out or looking to downsize. A vibrant downtown requires people moving around 7 days a week. We need more density downtown. An 8 storey building here would be an absolute waste of prime real estate. Absolute. Waste. This air of snobbery downtown is thankfully dying a slow death, and as painful as it is watching those who still cling to it, the next generation realizes that the old way of thinking isn’t realistic or even desirable for most anymore. Times are a’ changin’.

  • Joe Lamb

    Simply put Council has put themselves in the unenviable position they are in in terms of height ,density and location of Condo’s downtown because of their poor decision making in the past. One can only hope that recent proposed changes to the Ontario Municipal Board along with changes at the Council level given next year’s election will help resolve the problem.
    This issue along with the various bike lane issues will in my opinion result in changes at both the ward and most definitely at the Mayor’s level . I don’t think Council is aware of or wants s to be aware of the pent up emotion surrounding some of these issues.The worst mistake we as citizens made at the last election was to put them all back into office They now have a strong sense of entitlement,arrogance and invincibility.
    To be fair they have made some good decisions but these two issues will be at the heart of next year’s election and overpower all the good work Council has done.i If they approve the new Street diet on a long term basis I for one will conclude that that they just don’t give a damn about the citizens that they serve at the pleasure of.

  • roger d.

    Ken, that was a perfect comment, ignore Roger
    The “people” that frequent Jackson Square are certainly lively but I’m hesitant to invite them to Burlington.

  • connie

    Please put a condo there, a perfect place.

  • Pauline

    Have there been any new 4-8 storey buildings constructed in the Downtown in the last 20 – 30 years? One would think that if such development was so economical to build, there would have been quite a push by now.

    • William

      See the development at Locust and Elgin.

      Over the years, planning and council have appeased developers by approving their out of scale proposals which then weakened the city’s hand at the OMB. Reforms to the OMB should eliminate the land speculation that have driven prices up – assuming we get a change of mindset at city hall.

    • Tom Muir

      I’m not sure what Downtown you are talking about, but there have been lots of activity around lower Brant St in our Burlington Downtown in the last 10 years or so

      I don’t know about 4 to 8 projects, but there have been significant townhouse 3 to 4 story projects around both sides of Brant street in a block or two. Some are high end. That seems a favorite build.

      Then there have been a number of high rise builds on Lakeshore Rd, at the bottom of Brant, east and west, covering the whole block north. The Baxter is one, 100 Pearl or something like that is another, but right off the top at the moment, I can’t exactly recall all the names.

      Then there are new, under construction high rise builds at Berkeley and Bridgewater. And farther west is Paradigm.

      The point being is that a sense of proportion of building form, height, and density, sells in Downtown, but it takes time, particularly high rise.

      A planning department that throws gas on the fire of expectations and speculation by greedy developers, is looking to be losing control, as one play after another, rolling along, really does show, as Ken says, the risk of mistakes and over-building.

      How many property flips, business closures, condo builds, and high rise construction projects, that take years, can Brant St. and Downtown take?

      • Pauline

        Tom: Let’s be clear, Grow Bold is the name that City Council gave to the planning initiatives for the Downtown. This is a function of the Strategic Plan that was approved and endorsed by City Council (all of them). To deflect this matter towards the City Planners illustrates a complete lack of understanding and compromises your position on the development debate. Existing planning permissions allow for low rise apartment buildings and none have been built with the exception of the Saxony that is now under construction with selling prices well over $1.2 million. What does this tell you? It tells you that low rise buildings are generally not being built and that the one that is is being sold at a price point that most people cannot afford. This is not City building. This is NYMBY at its finest. SAD …

        • Tom Muir


          Grow Bold is the name for city-wide planning. The same thinking is happening on Plains Rd and the Aldershot Go mobility hub. Elsewhere too.

          I don’t think it means anything goes, which is what is happening with proposals downtown. The majority here seem to agree, although most consider some new development, in proportion to the street, and accounting for public issues, is acceptable.

          My PLains Rd experience with planning presentations indicates that people aren’t happy there either. Plains Rd is being decommercialized, and this is what will happen on Brant St with these big, goldmine builds if realized.

          I’m not sure how to deal with your angry words – I’m not sure where they come from or their motives – dismissing my competence, and saying I’m compromised because you don’t agree with my opinion or position.

          I’m not deflecting anything. Not to blame Ken above, but I stole some of his words about planning throwing gas on the fire of developer expectations, instead of acting as Gatekeeper.

          Planning has a pre-proposal consultation process where developers can meet with them. While they cannot stop developers from making any proposal they want – the OMB still gives them another complete hearing process – I see no sign of gate-keeping when a 28 story proposal cannot be nipped in the bud publicly.

          But no, everyone keeps their options open. This is the corrupting influence of wheeling and dealing that I find repugnant and intolerable.

          There is an OMB permission for 12 stories, not acted on, so what is wrong with starting there? Even this represents a huge windfall, substituting 12 stories of 90% residential, for 2 stories of commercial/retail.

          I have been involved in city development issues, for more than 20 years, and I have learned from hard experience not to trust Planning. So when I see others reflecting this same sentiment, I feel obliged to share my experience in support.

          I am not commenting from innocent not knowing, but from a refusal to look away when I see what’s going on, as I have before.

          “Good planning” is what the planners say it is, and this is a subjective opinion that only planning “experts” are deemed to be qualified to make by the official planning process.

          They are the ones that write the proposal evaluations and recommendations to Council. Are you saying they are just doing what they are told by Council, just following orders?

          In my view, with the enormous dollars at stake in this new Grow Bold reach for the sky, damn community views, this process cannot be trusted.

          Regarding your assertions on the prices of units, even in higher rise condos, the inflationary market conditions are in control, and recent standard builds were in the $500 to $600 a square foot, which I don’t think is mass affordable as a home.

          But the economic conditions and concerns are another whole matter, and beyond the scope we can cover adequately here.

          But I am very interested in these matters, as are others here, and perhaps we can discuss this in more detail soon.

          • James

            Tom, I respect your right to an opinion, and am pleased to see you acknowledge that what you write at length about on here is just that, your opinion. Your position. It is not fact. It is not based on first-hand knowledge. It comes from the bits and pieces of information you are privy to, but not necessarily the full story. You don’t work for a developer. You don’t work at City Hall. You’re not part of any meetings where the meat and potatoes of such matters are discussed. Sure you attend public meetings, but we all know only a small fraction of information is provided there. You may know the what, but you don’t know the why. You don’t know why developers or City Hall do what they do. You may have convinced yourself you do, but let’s face it, you’re an outsider looking through the window trying to read lips just like the rest of us. It comes from your particular view that all developers are greedy. It comes from your particular view that municipal planning staff are untrustworthy if they take a position different than yours. It comes from over 20 years of looking at planning matters from your particular view point. You do not speak for the Burlington community. You speak for you. You speak for your view of what Burlington is, and what Burlington should be. It is your opinion. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s not right, it’s not wrong. It’s yours. And that’s okay. Let’s all just remember that, including you. Yes you are entitled to your opinion, but so is everyone else. There was nothing “angry” in what Pauline said, you just chose to take it that way because her opinion was different than yours. She has the same right to an opinion as your do. Perhaps sometimes you could just respect that, and leave well enough alone.

  • Roger

    Terrible comment – I live in, own property and pay taxes in Burlington.

    All are welcome

    The comment:

    The “people” that frequent Jackson Square are certainly lively but I’m hesitant to invite them to Burlington.

    Shows how Burlington is becoming – not welcoming and well lets say a little less understanding

  • Mac

    For those interested, I was told that the Italian restaurant has closed at the corner of James Street and Brant (just across the street from the one referred to in this article) and that the building has been sold to yet another condo developer. Our quaint downtown is losing its charm and will be more of a traffic nightmare, that might not be worth the drive. What a shame.

  • Tom Muir

    Property values depend on uses allowed and density, and in this the city zoning laws are a license to print money.

    Therein lies the corrupting influence of the Bold push we are seeing take over the development scene.

    Property values in general, and particularly for this story on Brant street, are increasing, but there is an inherent speculative premium that is leading to inflationary expectations that feed on themselves.

    You can’t sell the property for more than a multiple of the uses allowed and the density, in simple terms.

    Obviously, the speculative expectations involved in 28 stories of built space, 90% of which is residential, inflates the property values sky high above the 2 stories of commercial that currently occupy the space.

    And it is a fact, that you can’t get more cash value out of the property than the zoning uses allow. Therein lies the rub of the influences present.

    If you pay more, and actually buy it, then you are speculating.

    So all this talk about the property values “NEEDING” many stories up to the sky to pay, are pretty much speculator BS.

    More height and density obviously is happening, but it’s just greed that keeps pushing for ever more, and damn what people might think or the consequences.

    The city is better served by a sense of proportion, and by proposing developments that reflect this sense, and what the majority of people can really support.

    This is closer to 8 stories that to 28.

    • Ken

      Absolutely true Tom;

      City Planning created a problem managing developer expectations when they decided to go on their “Grow Bold” campaign. It’s taken on a relentless effort to “sell” intensification. City Planning used to be the gatekeeper of developer greed now they throw gas on the fire.

      I work for a developer; they aren’t doing any work in Burlington, and honestly what’s the hurry to make a catastrophic mistake? The speculation on develop-able land is more evidence we are over-building.

    • Stephen White

      Great comment Tom.

      Yes…the City would be better served by more emphasis upon proportion. A six to eight storey complex would be less intrusive upon residential communities already in existence. It would also do more to promote a sense of community rather than shoe-horning residents into larger complexes that lack aesthetic appeal. I drove eastbound along along Fairview yesterday and saw this obscene structure going up next to Wal-Mart. It is unappealing, grotesque, and out of keeping with the surrounding area. Left to our City Planning Department this is what the downtown core will look like too.

      The other factor that hasn’t been taken into consideration is safety. In the event of a fire or emergency you can get people out of a six to eight storey complex. Most fire trucks only have aerial ladders that will take extend to the 10th floor. If you live above the 10th floor your chances of surviving a medical or fire emergency diminish significantly. However, maybe the folks in the City Hall Planning department probably don’t care about mundane things like that.

      • Ken

        Great comment Stephen;

        I’ve said to Planning that the Paradigm build was a mistake.
        When that “thing” is built it’s going to shock and scare people into realizing what “Grow Bold” really means.

        Replica’s of the “thing” are a forgone conclusion from Brant to Drury Lane.
        And maybe from Drury to Guelph line.

        The election can’t come soon enough.

  • I'm alright now

    Ooops, I thought you were talking about the Upper Canada Place Mall until I actually read through the article.
    Those who are able to recall my memory slips sometimes was it called “Wellington Square?” It stood on what is now the outdoor parking lot across Brant from City Hall. It was never full either. Late sixties until it was steam rolled 1980?

  • Ken

    I question the statement that people who live in condo units that sell in the million dollar range don’t add vibrancy to the city core.

    I had the opportunity to explain to a Planner as of late that someone who makes $120K per annum pays more in tax then two people earning $60K. The same person making $120K is likely to own a larger home and pay more in property tax but more germane to the conservation is that the $120K person will use infrastructure half as much.

    This should be impactful given that the Region Chair, Gary Carr, has stated on numerous occasions that development fees don’t pay for development. In the 2017 budget D/V’s were 8% in 2016 & 6% respective.

    If a young person who works as a barista or server or landscaper can’t live in the downtown core this is an economic problem not a urban planning problem.

    The “people” that frequent Jackson Square are certainly lively but I’m hesitant to invite them to Burlington.