The Retail Design Manual is intended for architects, designers, Business Improvement Areas and the development community as aspirational retail best practices that can help ensure the development of resilient and adaptable retail spaces. Resilient and adaptable retail spaces are integral to communities because they have the ability to activate and animate streets and public spaces, and can evolve over time to accommodate a variety of different retail users.

The best practices apply City-wide to all new development that includes retail uses, with a focus on retail uses that interface with the public realm.

Why a Retail Design Manual is needed

The City’s ability to deliver on the objectives of complete communities and great streets are closely tied to its ability to secure successful, resilient, dynamic and vibrant retail uses through the development review process.

Toronto is currently experiencing rising land values and rapid intensification, with much of the new retail space added incorporated within the base of mixed-use buildings. This increased permanence, combined with significant redevelopment pressures along the City’s historic main streets, necessitates increased diligence on design quality, resiliency, adaptability, and long-term viability of street-oriented retail uses.

Some of the key factors that enable successful retail development include a combination of favourable market forces and resilient, flexible and adaptable design elements, and this Manual responds to the latter.

The best practices and design directions found in the Manual reinforce provincial and municipal policy frameworks that promote the achievement of complete communities, support the health and evolution of retail uses and the sector and seek to improve the quality of life for all Torontonians.

Retail Design Manual contributors

City staff have identified the need for further guidance for the design of retail spaces as part of lower floors in mixed-use buildings. In fall of 2018, the Division retained the services of a consultant team to assist in the creation of this manual through a best practices review, stakeholder consultation, and the creation of a manual.

The study and creation of the Manual is led by City Planning’s Strategic Initiatives Unit and supported by Urban Design and Research and Information. Other sections from across City Planning, and other City divisions such as Economic Development, Toronto Building, and Municipal Licensing & Standards are also engaged through a Core Team.

The consultant team is led by retail consultants, 360 Collective, and supported by design firm GH+A, brokerage RKF, and the Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity


The Manual is intended to be completed in early 2020.