Bold Bet

Injecting new life into OEV’s commercial gateway, a developer sees
it as the next place to be

Photo: William Older is redeveloping five Dundas Street buildings at the Adelaide Street gateway to Old East Village 

AS A NEWCOMER to London, artist William Older was interested in collecting pieces of the city’s history. He wanted to buy the iconic Hudson’s department store sign that has long graced the southeast corner of Dundas and Adelaide Streets.

The sign wasn’t for sale. But the block was.

As an investor who grew up working in his family’s real estate business in his home town of Brighton, England, Older saw the opportunity to purchase the commercial gateway to Old East Village as the chance of a lifetime.

So, in June 2017, the 37-year-old founded PWR Older Developments and became the new owner of five buildings—609 to 629 Dundas Street—­excluding the Root Cellar Organic Café at 623 Dundas.

His father, Paul, and brother, Robert, are partners in the business.

“There is a certain amount of stigma that is still attached to the Old East Village, but there’s no real reason for that,” says Older, who moved to London five years ago.

His family—two young daughters and a son due this April—had put down roots two blocks north of Dundas and Adelaide.

“Having lived in so many places around the world, this is the only part of London I found that felt like a city. And I want to bring my kids up to experience the most diverse amount of life they can. Somewhere with a really strong sense of ­community,” he explains.

Older has big plans for the historic block, which is anchored by Lilley’s Corners, built in 1871 as the first ­commercial building east of Adelaide.

The real estate transaction included nine commercial units as well as a series of dilapidated and long-vacant boarding rooms upstairs. Work to clean up and improve the streetscape started last summer, and Older is ­looking forward to welcoming a slate of commercial tenants ­beginning this spring.

Confirmed new businesses include Dundas & Sons Brew Company, Taxsmart and a creative performance space for the tactile arts called VibraFusionLab.

In addition, Older will transform the former Chapman’s Bakery into a community arts hub called The Bakers Dozen. The 5,500-square-foot space will include a streetfront gallery, 20 artist ­studios and a large event space suitable for workshops, classes and gatherings.

Confirmed new businesses include Dundas & Sons Brew Company, Taxsmart and a creative performance space for the tactile arts called VibraFusionLab

Older admits he’s had to take an unconventional approach to leasing, but says his priority is finding ­independent tenants who will draw people to the neighbourhood. “I’ve got a very large vision for this block. It will evolve into something quite significant for London,” he says.

He credits the Old East Village BIA with helping him navigate city hall, while his previous experience ­renovating properties in England gave him the courage to take on the challenge of bringing the heritage properties back to life.
“I’m used to working on old buildings, 150 years is ­nothing,” he says with a laugh.

Once his commercial space is up and running, Older plans to turn his attention to the residential units upstairs. As for the faded Hudson’s sign, Older says it will be restored to its original glory and shine as a symbol of the ­neighbourhood’s bright future.  Nicole Laidler