Categories
Brampton Development Urban Planning

The death and life of Shoppers World Brampton

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An old Target shopping cart sits in front of Shoppers World. Target, which closed in 2015, now subdivided into smaller retail units, including JYSK, Staples, and Giant Tiger

Previously on this blog, I wrote about Shoppers World Brampton, a shopping mall that slowly declined despite being located in a high-growth suburban city. I wrote that RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), the owners of the mall, were interested in developing the property by reducing the retail footprint and adding new residential uses. Some of those details have now been revealed.

Shoppers World opened in 1969, on the outskirts of the Town of Brampton, which was transitioning from a county service centre and industrial town to a suburb of Toronto. The mall expanded twice: once in 1973-74, and again in 1980-81.

In the 1980s, Shoppers World boasted a Simpson’s department store, K-Mart, two full-service supermarkets, a Pascal’s department store, two movie theatres, and even an indoor waterpark. Familiar national chains filled the halls: Thrifty’s, Grand & Toy, Coles and W.H. Smith, Smart Set, Naturalizer, Black’s, Collegiate Sports, Peoples Jewelers, and Reitman’s. Shoppers World never had the status that Square One or Yorkdale enjoyed, but it was a good mall offering just about anything you’d ever need.

It was where I got my first paying gig: returning stray shopping carts to K-Mart for a few dollars apiece. I lived within walking distance of the mall, though I joked that the best thing about it was the bus to Square One.

But many of those national retailers left by the mid-1990s. Square One, a 15 minute drive south, was expanding, and Bramalea City Centre had renovated and expanded as well. But when RioCan REIT purchased Shoppers World in the late 1990s, it made some long-needed improvements, including new flooring over the old terrazzo, a new food court, and removing some of the dead retail space for new big-box retailers like Canadian Tire, Staples, and Winners. When The Bay (successor to Simpson’s) closed, it was replaced by more exterior retail.

Meanwhile, Zellers replaced K-Mart, and briefly became a Target store during the American company’s disastrous foray in the Canadian market. Rio-Can carved that into spaces for smaller retailers, including Giant Tiger. Finally, the bus terminal moved, from a distant corner facing Steeles Avenue, to a central location right at the corner of Main Street and Steeles Avenue, designed for easy transfers to the Hurontario LRT.

ShoppersWorld

The interior of the mall is still busy, but nearly all chains let their leases expire, with independent retailers taking over. Even so, there are many vacant storefronts.

Earlier in October, RioCan submitted their plans to the City of Brampton, and were also presented at an open house at the mall on October 22, 2019. The redevelopment proposal includes new roads, residential towers with at-grade retail, underground parking, among other features.

Details from RioCan’s submission include:

  • Four new north-south and east-west public streets through the property, including multi-use paths, as several private laneways. Mill Street would continue south from Charolais Boulevard to Steeles Avenue.
  • New residential towers up to 28 storeys tall, containing 4,725 units (one, two, and potentially three-bedroom apartments)
  • 155 townhouses in the northern end of the property, towards low-rise subdivisons north of Charolais Boulevard
  • 44,647 m² (480,582 sq. ft.) of retail space integrated with the residential towers, a reduction from 62,256 m² (670,124 sq. ft.)
  • An enlarged Kaneff Park (west of the mall, between two separate existing high-rise rental tower clusters), along with new community and library space
  • New office space adjacent to the expanded park and community space
  • Most parking will be located underground
  • The Brampton Gateway terminal will remain

Site Plan of Shoppers World Brampton redevelopmentSite plan from RioCan’s submissions to the City of Brampton. Click to enlarge.

The first phase of the redevelopment will be 27-storey tower on the southwest corner of the site (where the abandoned Brampton Transit terminal now sits). This will be constructed before the mall itself is touched. Further phases will see the mall slowly demolished, though they are dependent on market conditions.

SWB - View from terminalRendering of Shoppers World redevelopment, looking northwest from the existing Brampton Gateway Terminal

RioCan hired Quadrangle and SvN architects to develop conceptual renderings for the development, indicating that RioCan is serious about this development. Given the City of Brampton’s own plans for urbanizing this part of the city, I am optimistic this will be built. The area already has good public transit access, with Zum express bus service to Downtown Brampton, Mississauga City Centre, Sheridan and Humber Colleges, as well as local service. This will also be at the terminus of the Hurontario LRT line (construction will begin shortly as the contract was just awarded), which may yet continue to Downtown Brampton.

This is the largest shopping mall redevelopment in the Greater Toronto Area, following work now underway at the Galleria Mall in Toronto, and proposed for the Promenade Mall in Vaughan (though much of that mall’s structure will remain intact). As the mid-market gets squeezed by discounters, internet shopping, and high-end shopping centres, more malls of Shoppers World’s size will see similar development.

I was surprised to see such urbanity proposed for suburban Brampton, but it may finally be the time for the Flower City to bloom. Despite my nostalgia for Shoppers World, I am excited for its future.

SWB Rendering 1.jpgLooking south on Mill Street towards the park expansion and Steeles Avenue. The first phase tower is shown in the middle background.

 

Categories
Brampton Development Ontario Urban Planning

Requiem for Ontario’s regional malls

IMG_8782-001Shoppers World Brampton, 2016, before the Target store was replaced by smaller stores, including Giant Tiger

Recently, I wrote about the history of Ontario’s downtown malls. Most of these shopping centres, built in the 1970s and 1980s in the downtown cores across the province, failed by the end of the 1990s. The collapse of the Eaton’s department store chain and competition from larger, suburban malls and new big-box retailers drove customers away from Ontario’s downtowns. Only in Toronto and Ottawa, with large downtown office employment, residential development, and good urban transit, did these major shopping malls thrive.

But that does not mean that all suburban shopping centres are doing well, especially after the loss of Target in 2015 and Sears Canada in 2017. For TVO, I wrote more about how smaller regional malls in Ontario are re-positioning themselves.

The Brampton house that I grew up in was a ten minute walk from Shoppers World, which, in the 1980s, had a full line department store, Simpson’s, as well as Marks and Spencer, K-Mart (where I had my first paying gig, delivering shopping carts back to the store abandoned in nearby parks), a Pascal hardware store, and two supermarkets, Food City and A&P. Larger, more popular malls like Mississauga’s Square One and Bramalea City Centre were one bus ride away, but Shoppers World held its own, even if it was second tier. By the 1990s, though, it was clear that the mall was in decline: national retailers were leaving and there was a noticeable lack of investment in the property.

When RioCan REIT purchased Shoppers World in the late 1990s, it made some improvements and attracted big-box retailers like Canadian Tire, Staples, and Winners. Zellers took over the K-Mart store, which was expanded. But The Bay (which replaced Simpson’s) was closed down and the store later demolished. I had left Brampton in 2006, but I was still sad to see my one-time local mall decline. Now RioCan has talked about downsizing the mall, and redeveloping part of the property. Competition from larger, stronger shopping malls, newer retail power centres, the mismanagement of several retail firms, and internet shopping have all taken their toll. Shoppers World isn’t a dead mall, but like many smaller malls, it will be adapting to changing times.

In the TVO article, I take a look at a few other malls, like London’s Westmount Mall, in similar circumstances.

ShoppersWorld.jpgShoppers World, 2018. Despite many store vacancies, it’s still a community hub.

Categories
Brampton Transit Urban Planning

The terminus of the Hurontario LRT: an opportunity for something better

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Downtown Brampton, the logical terminus of the Hurontario-Main LRT

I’ve written several times about the Hurontario-Main light rail transit (LRT) project on this blog. Last summer, I led a walk along Main Street, discussing Downtown Brampton’s wonderful built heritage, the potential for Main Street, and explaining why alternative routes, proposed by councillors and private interests, weren’t feasible. Floodplains aren’t great places to build higher-order transit lines.

Needless to say, I was very disappointed that Brampton City Council voted 6-5 last October against building the LRT between Steeles Avenue and Downtown Brampton. A vocal and wealthy minority, including a former premier of Ontario, opposed the project; it didn’t help that Mayor Linda Jeffrey found herself in constant opposition with several city councillors who backed other candidates for mayor in the 2014 municipal election. A Toronto Star reporter, assigned to the western GTA beat, wasn’t reporting fairly on this issue either.

Since that unfortunate vote, I resigned myself to a truncated Hurontario-Main LRT corridor that will still serve three or four stops in Brampton, but will stop short of its logical terminus.

I recently made a trip out to the intersection of Steeles Avenue and Main and Hurontario Streets, the new northern terminus of the planned LRT. Construction of the 20-kilometre line, between Port Credit and Steeles Avenue, is scheduled to begin in 2018.

HMLRT
The Hurontario-Main LRT, after Brampton City Council’s vote in October 2015. 

The corner of Steeles Avenue and Main Street is already a major transit hub. Eleven Brampton Transit bus routes (including two Züm routes), a Miway express bus, and GO Transit buses serve the corner; the Brampton Gateway Terminal is the city’s second-busiest transfer point. The new Gateway Terminal, which opened in 2014, was built to accommodate ridership growth and facilitate transfers with the proposed LRT, which will stop in the median of Main Street.

As far as Toronto’s suburbs go, this corner of Brampton is relatively dense. There are several rental towers within a short walking distance; there are also three nearby townhouse complexes. Shoppers World, on the northeast corner, is a large regional shopping centre, albeit a mall that has fallen on hard times. On the southwest corner, there is still an old farmfield, surrounded by subdivisions, apartment towers and retail. There are many opportunities for transit-oriented development.

IMG_8803-001A fallow farm field, south of Shoppers World. The area is zoned for medium and high density housing developments, including townhouses and apartment buildings. 

If Downtown Brampton, Brampton’s busiest bus route (501 Queen) and a GO Transit and VIA Rail station weren’t just 3 kilometres away, this would actually be an ideal terminus for a suburban light rail transit line.

IMG_8776-001The corner of Steeles and Hurontario/Main, looking northwest. The Brampton Gateway Terminal is on the opposite corner.

One of the greatest opportunities for new transit-oriented development is Shoppers World Brampton. First opened in 1969 by Peel Elder Limited (who also developed Shoppers World Danforth), the mall went through several additions over the years; by the 1980s, it boasted over 200 stores, including a Simpson’s, K-Mart, Pascal Hardware, cinemas, and two supermarkets. At one time, Shoppers World even had indoor waterslides. By 2000, Simpsons became The Bay, and K-Mart became Zellers.

Growing up only a 15-minute walk away, Shoppers World was my local mall. Pizza Hut was a favourite place to meet up with friends, I fondly remember the free popcorn at Jumbo Video, and the bus terminal made it easy to get to better malls, particularly Square One. My first paying gig was returning abandoned shopping carts to K-Mart for $5 each.

By the 1990s, the mall’s owners neglected the property, while Bramalea City Centre and Square One renovated and expanded. There were persistent rumours that the mall would be closed and re-developed with highrise towers.

IMG_8782-001A mostly empty Shoppers World parking lot on a Saturday afternoon.

RioCan REIT took over Shoppers World Brampton in 2000, renovated the property, and added new big-box retailers such as Canadian Tire. But The Bay closed in 2007, and Target, which took over Zellers’ lease, shut down last year. The final indignity came when the shuttered Bay store was torn down and replaced by Lastman’s Bad Boy.

Shoppers World isn’t yet a dead mall – while many national chains left in the last two decades, small businesses have moved in. However, there are still plenty of vacancies, especially in the north end of the mall, near where The Bay used to be. The new Bad Boy and Beer Store are accessed only from outside the mall, making it harder to draw customers in.

IMG_2887-001The former mall entrance to Target, showing the floor tiles installed in the 2000-2002 renovations.

The answer, I think, is to partially redevelop Shoppers World into a mixed-use, transit-oriented development, retaining a majority of the retail space, but including new residential, office and community uses. Shops at Don Mills, at Don Mills Road and Lawrence Avenue in Toronto, isn’t a bad model to follow, but better residential integration and a proper link with the transit hub would be necessary. Humbertown, a smaller, but controversial development proposed for Etobicoke, has the right mix of retail and residential intensification.

One day, I believe a new Brampton City Council will come to its senses and get the LRT extended to Downtown Brampton as proposed. This is what happened in Mesa, Arizona, a Phoenix suburb that originally opposed a light rail corridor from Downtown Phoenix, Tempe, and Arizona State University, to its downtown. After the first phase of the Valley Metro LRT opened in December 2008, political opposition to a light rail extension along Main Street faded. The LRT through Downtown Mesa opened to great fanfare in August, 2015.

But until that time comes, there are some opportunities to capitalize on the approved plan. Steeles Avenue isn’t the ideal place to end the Hurontario LRT, but it’s a good place to start planning something better.