This declining Ontario mall will be transformed into a climate-resilient mixed-use neighborhood
Launched in 1969, Shoppers World Brampton signaled that the Toronto suburb of Brampton, a once-sleepy agricultural outpost famous for its flower-growing operations, had officially arrived. More than 50 years after opening its first indoor mall, Brampton’s rapid growth is still thriving as the third most populous city in southern Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe region, behind Toronto and Mississauga, and the ninth most populous municipality in all of Canada with over 600,000 residents.
As for Shoppers World Brampton, which first opened on modest farmland with only a few dozen retailers and a movie theater, it grew alongside the city. Significantly expanded and renovated over the decades, the mall has housed more than 150 stores, a very a short-lived indoor slide attraction and an unfortunate target. But, much like countless closed malls across North America, this ancient symbol of progress has seen a steady decline in recent years and that fall has only been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. Today, Shoppers World Brampton, though beloved, stands as a shell anchored by Canadian Tire in a young and rapidly changing city.
However, dramatic changes are on the horizon.
RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust, which has owned Shoppers World Brampton for two decades, will not resurrect the existing mall with a dramatic reconfiguration or an ambitious adaptive reuse program. Instead, the 53-acre property, including the mall itself and the sea of above-ground parking lots that surround it, will be demolished entirely to make way for something entirely new: a walkable, community-driven community. public transit that will eventually accommodate 4,500 new residential units and a wide swath of open green space. While the new Shoppers World Brampton site will be housing-focused and feature a mix of low- and high-density residential buildings, there will, naturally, also be a commercial component with plans for almost 900,000 square feet of space. commercial and retail.
As Brampton continues to explode, there is an urgent need for new housing, especially affordable housing, to help alleviate what Building called it a “catastrophic” situation. Razing a declining suburban mall and replacing it with apartment-filled towers with ground-floor retail, access to public transit and plenty of public green space is RioCan’s solution – a solution which has also taken root from Atlanta to the Dallas Bay Area-Fort Worth Metroplex.
The first phase of construction of the multi-phase metamorphic redevelopment, planned by Toronto-based integrated design firm SvN Architects + Planners with BDP Quadrangle as project architect, is set to begin next year with phase one occupancy scheduled for 2026. The completion date for the fully realized new neighborhood is further out in 2040. Shoppers World Brampton’s rezoning application was approved with “overwhelming support” in late 2020 after it was officially introduced earlier this that year; the first details were made public the previous fall. At this stage, RioCan is working with the City of Brampton on concurrent Draft Plan, Site Plan and Consent applications. (In his role, SvN serves as planner, landscape architect, urban planner and contributing architect.)
As detailed in a press release from SvN detailing its so-called “gray to green” vision for the Shoppers World Brampton site, the proposed project, while similar in scope to other mixed-use shopping center redevelopment projects, puts emphasis on blending the site with the natural ecology of the area, namely its waterways.
As the company noted, it “looked beyond the boundaries of the site to see what the land conveyed about its identity, using it as a key driver for the design of this vibrant new mixed-use community. “. In turn, the master plan design centers around landscaping that “articulates the theme of the original ecology, including rivers, wetlands, grasslands and ponds. Woven throughout the community are a series of courtyards, pocket parks, green roofs, terraces and an urban bosque [grove of trees] where people can gather for pop-up markets and events.
To boost connectivity, SvN envisioned a network of streets and pedestrian pathways that seamlessly connect the new community to several key adjacent sites: the underutilized Kaneff Park, which will be expanded and revived as part of the master plan, as well as as Fletchers Creek and the west; Etobicoke Creek to the east and established residential neighborhoods to the north and south. The master plan also includes a linear park, a pedestrian-centric commercial corridor and a large transit plaza. (As noted in a recent article on the redevelopment of Shoppers World Brampton and the broader trend of turning malls on their last legs into mixed-use neighborhoods published in The Globe&Mail, the mall site will serve as a future terminus for the new Metrolinx Hurontario LRT transit line.)
“The transformation of the existing Shoppers World site began with the idea that the landscape – although seemingly absent today – can become one of the most defining characteristics of a site,” explained Shonda Wang, director of SvN Architects + Planner, in a press release. “We are seeing more and more, especially in these challenging environments, that being back to the land is what brings a real sense of community.”
“Architecture – in terms of new styles, facades, building materials and technologies – will change over time,” she added. “As designers, directing with a landscape setting ensures a cohesive vision that can be sustained over the many years of site redevelopment. It is the common thread that will connect all the different elements of the built environment.
Sustainability plays a tremendous role in the master plan and introduces “a resilient landscaping strategy that will set new precedents for the city of Brampton at large” per SvN. Integrated stormwater management systems, renewable energy, landscaping that reduces the urban heat island effect, and an overall design that promotes walking, cycling, and public transit over the use of the private car, are highlighted.
“The Shoppers World Brampton redevelopment provides us with an unparalleled opportunity to transform the site into a new community that is not only resilient to the vagaries of the weather, but also greener, healthier and has a smaller environmental footprint,” Wang said.
At this time, Shoppers World Brampton is still very open for business. In fact, shoppers and residents of Brampton can learn more about the future of the site within the mall itself: a once empty storefront now houses The Hub, an informational community gathering space, conveniently located between Hollywood Fashions and Boardwalk Shoes, which is dedicated to communicating RioCan’s core vision and plans for “a new urban future.”