case studies

Real Estate Case Study: Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area


The Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area (B.I.A.) in Toronto is an association that represents some 2,000 members—including businesses and property owners—who work to make their neighbourhood an attractive destination for shopping, business and entertainment. Founded in 2001, it represents a diverse business community with over 600 retail stores, a significant office sector, 150 bars and restaurants, 8 hotels and 4 theatres; 52 million people visit the area every year.


Finding the right commercial tenant for an empty storefront can be a tricky venture; it’s even more difficult when an area is experiencing multiple vacancies. In 2010, in response to a challenging economic environment, the B.I.A. decided to launch a retail recruitment initiative, with the aim of connecting landlords with space to lease in the district and retailers looking to locate in Downtown Yonge. The district’s primary trade area has a residential population of over 175,000 people, but its daytime population rises to over 565,000. To attract retailers, the B.I.A. realized it needed to better understand the diverse people who came to the area, including office workers, students and tourists.


The B.I.A. turned to demographic and segmentation research at Environics Analytics to help identify target tenants to create a cohesive retail mix. Using the PRIZM C2 segmentation system, Demographic Estimates and Projections, Daytime Population and HouseholdSpend databases, EA analysts profiled the residents who live within a 15 minute walk of the B.I.A. to identify which consumer segments frequent the area. Classifying area shoppers using PRIZM C2 segments helped local landlords and commercial brokers better understand not only the consumers in their trade areas but what kinds of businesses they’d support. The analysis also gave established businesses insights into their customers’ mindsets so they could develop marketing creatives and messages that would resonate with their target audiences.


The PRIZM C2 analysis showed that most of the area’s residents were members of three clusters—Rooms with a View (young, ethnic singles in urban high rises), Grads & Pads (young, lower-middle-class urban singles) and Young Digerati (younger, upscale urban trendsetters). And B.I.A. members appreciated the data-based research into the area’s customers and residents. “Because this area is so diverse and has such high traffic, many business owners are just happy to sell to all the people,” says Pauline Larsen, a research and strategy consultant to the B.I.A. “But the analysis allows our members to understand demand and be more deliberate in their marketing.” B.I.A. staff offered its members, local landlords and business owners a twenty-page trade area and demographic report. The landlords found the reports especially valuable as part of a leasing support package. And the business owners appreciated the data and insights to customize their media and marketing strategies to area lifestyles. “There’s a perception that good market data is unattainably expensive,” notes Larsen. “So our members were very happy that the B.I.A. was able to provide this kind of research.”