Farewell to to Bathurst Manor Plaza

IMG_3814-001

This Sunday July 31, another suburban shopping plaza in Toronto will close for good. For over 50 years, Bathurst Manor Plaza, at the corner of Wilmington Avenue and Overbrook Place, served the local community. At its peak, it had Sunnybrook Market, a local grocery store, a Shoppers Drug Mart, LCBO, and a CIBC bank branch. It also had several clothing stores, an optician, restaurants, cleaners, an a video store. These may not be the types of businesses that would attract customers from far away, but they were the types of stores essential to the local community. It also had a gas station and service centre, which was later occupied by a kosher pizza restaurant. The plaza’s second floor houses doctors’ and dentists’ offices, lawyers, and other services.

There was also Goodman’s China and Gifts. Known for wedding registries, it was where my father would go (all the way from Brampton) to get fine crystal gifts, for my mother’s birthday or wedding anniversary, often bring my brothers and I along. I still remember friendly Mr. Goodman behind the counter, who always had a twinkle in his eye and loved seeing us kids with our father in his store. This is why I felt particularly sad visiting this plaza for the last time earlier this week.

Canadian Jewish News has a very good article that discusses the history and future of Bathurst Manor Plaza.

IMG_3825-001The abandoned Goodman’s China store


The plaza, built in 1960, is at the corner of two minor streets, but located in the middle of a master-planned postwar subdivision. On the southeast corner of Overbrook and Wimington, there’s a park and a community centre, on the southwest corner, there’s a large Jewish day school and a synagogue. On the northwest corner, across from the plaza, there are a few small apartment buildings There are also several public schools nearby. Most Bathurst Manor residents would have lived within a short walk of most of these amenities.


Bathurst Manor Plaza is in the centre of the neighbourhood.

It’s interesting that even as late as the 1960s, many Toronto suburban developments were designed to allow residents to get by without a car for short, regular trips. Don Mills and the older sections of Bramalea had the same principles in mind.

Bathurst Plaza’s decline came in the 1990s and 2000s. The Sunnybrook grocery store closed in 2004, while Shoppers Drug Mart, LCBO, and CIBC moved to a larger big-box plaza on Dufferin Street, joining Boston Pizza and McDonald’s. As anchor tenants started to vacate the older plaza, it was harder for other tenants to hang on, and maintenance on the property declined.

IMG_3826-003Older plazas often have or had simple signs such as this one, marking the location of the vacated hardware store. 

Sadly, while that new plaza at Dufferin and Rimrock has a lot more automobile traffic going past it, it’s not in a walkable area. West of the new plaza are warehouses and factories. And south of Rimrock Road, where Dufferin Street turns into Allen Road, pedestrians and cyclists are banned. While Bathurst Manor had a large parking lot that was once filled with cars, at least it was easy to walk to.


Shoppers Drug Mart, LCBO and CIBC moved to bigger units on Dufferin, but are now in a location that’s much less walkable for local residents 

There were plans for a new development here with two 6-story residential buildings with street level retail, and 44 townhouse units. That application, first proposed in 2006 and again in 2011, is dormant, so in the short term, nothing will happen to the plaza, except further decay. The local councillor, James Pasternak (Ward 10 – York Centre) said to CJN that …”the whole thing is quite sad. It was a vibrant neighbourhood plaza at one point.”

IMG_3823-001

Other, smaller plazas in Toronto, especially those off major traffic routes, have seen similar declines. In Etobicoke, Stonegate Plaza served its neighbourhood well. It was the about the same size as Bathurst Manor Plaza, and it was anchored by a Valumart grocery store. But a new big-box style mall, anchored by a Sobey’s, opened on the Queensway, and in 2014, the plaza closed and a new residential development is under construction on the site. Sadly, this means that residents without cars (which include many seniors) live in a food desert.

Older plazas like Bathurst Manor had an interesting mix of big chains and small businesses, and were often focused on the local communities that they served. Newer plazas are typically much more separated from nearby residential areas, but offer the large, big-format units that are in demand by national and global retailers. It’s unfortunate, but that’s reality.

This entry was posted in Toronto, Urban Planning and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Farewell to to Bathurst Manor Plaza

  1. Kevin Reidy says:

    When Sherway Gardens first opened it had a Dominion and Loblaws and an LCBO. The grocery stores closed a long time ago and the LCBO moved to the north side of the Queensway (and presumably lower rent.) This meant that the grocery stores at the nearby older plazas (Cloverdale, Applewood, etc.) continued to operate. Those plazas still have their LCBO’s, Beer Stores, Drug Stores (Shoppers’ or Rexall), banks, dry cleaners, etc. What has changed over the decades is why you go to those plazas. The domino effect is what happens to the next tier of retail-Alderwood Plaza, strip malls and commercial strips (e.g. on Lakeshore Blvd. in Etobicoke.)

  2. Frank Heisler says:

    Are you sure Sunnybrook Market closed in 2004?

    If I go back through my mother’s photo albums, I’m sure I can find a photo I took from the mid-90s that already showed Sunnybrook Market closed. My mum and I used to run into the butcher (with the big billowing, signing voice) from there after it closed down – he used to walk around Promenade Mall with his family on weekends.

    I think it closed in 1994, when I was just graduating high school. Even so, growing up in the area through the 80s and 90s, I distinctly remember the plaza began to fall apart after they redid those metal columns, which used to be just plain painted metal pipes – so they added wider pipes, changed the bases, added those weird iron curved bars and painted them blue. Then bam, it all turned to crap.

    There was also that weird extension built on to it, which made the plaza an “L”, with Edith’s fashions at the other end. They tore that down in the early 2000’s and left Edith’s, which looked pretty ratty until it moved to Dufferin where the old Harveys and Swiss Chalet used to be.

    Cheers.

    • Mary says:

      Hi there, you say you have pictures of the plaza? Would you consider sharing them? I would love to see them, and so would many Bathurst Manorites! Maybe it was Dominion that closed. Any idea when it was converted to Sunnybrook? I feel like it may have been when Steinberg’s closed at Bathurst and Shepard, and became Dominion (now Metro)… Anyways, if you could share those pictures, I am sure a lot of people would love to see them!

      • Hi Mary,
        I wish I had access to old photographs of this mall!

        The Sunnybrook market was indeed originally a Dominion store, but I don’t know exactly when they moved out. I’ve had a look at the online collection of the Toronto Archives, but couldn’t find any old photographs, unfortunately.

  3. R. Forest says:

    Does anyone know if the Bathurst Manor cleaners has relocated somewhere else?

  4. Pauline. Dobkin says:

    I was there when the opened the hardware store. A friend of mine was in advertising And took pictures of my children buying things in the store my husband and I were in the pictures also. There are also pictures in front of the gift store of my sisters children and my children I think there’s a picture of my son when he was maybe three in the Loblaw’s on a horse a little electric one. If you’re interested I will see if I can get someone to copy them…

    Email address redacted

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s