Well the area is a bit of a crossroads of major vehicle arteries, not very inviting for a stroll. However it is, as you say, fairly nice given the context. A little more landscaping and/or public art would help.
Actually there's retail in both of those buildings. You can see a liitle bit of red at the base of the left building. That's a neon sign for a bar I think. The other retail can't be seen because of the angle of the photo but its there.
I work right by that area. It's a little dead, but getting better. The buildings on the south (left side of the picture) have a lot of retail, but it faces onto the square at Yonge and Queens Quay rather than out onto Harbour Street (which is the street pictured). The bar is the Harbour Sports Grille, which is pretty busy most days, especially for games.
The buildings on the right is new, and other than a Subway and an ice cream shop, doesn't have any retail. But the store fronts are all there, and I figure that retail will come once the 2nd phases of the complex are completed.
The whole area is getting better. There used to be such a dead spot between the rail tracks and Harbour Street for so long - all vacant lots and parking lots. Now there's a lot of construction.
The one thing they could do which would really improve the area, I think, is put some retail in the tunnels under the tracks at York, Bay and Yonge. It would provide a connection between the financial district and the area south of the tracks. Right now, it's just a big, scary black hole.
GK: Good Toronto pics-I want to know what that Flatiron-style building at#2 is and I also found the pics from the overhead bridge - #s 10 and 11 looking E towards the W end of Union Station's canopy showing the tracks below-why is it so quiet without any trains in view? Which overhead walkway were they taken from-the original late 70s overpass leading to the CN Tower? Yes I agree-some of the pics were of somewhat sterile areas but I do not get tired of Toronto pics. LI MIKE