Yet another Toronto mall will soon be completely engulfed in new towers
The Toronto shopping centre as we know it — an oasis of commerce surrounded by a desert of surface parking — may cease to exist in the decades to come, as a growing list of malls are ditching the car-centric model in favour of complete communities, planning full demolitions in some cases to make way for new opportunities.
Among the increasingly long list of mall properties facing redevelopment, plans are in motion to build out the site of a Scarborough shopping centre with eight new buildings and new public parkland.
Developer WSIM Group has grand plans to keep Woodside Square right where it is at 1571 Sandhurst Circle and encircle it in new housing on the sprawling site bounded by Finch Avenue East, McCowan Road and Sandhurst Circle in Scarborough.
Plans stem from a development application dating back to 2020, with resubmissions at the end of 2021 and again in early 2023.
Planners have designed the plan around four core principles; seeking to break up the existing mall block, create a street-related built form, provide a pedestrian-oriented environment, and enhance the public realm and open space across the site.
This would be accomplished through a new street grid, including a new north-south street connecting Finch Avenue East to Brimwood Boulevard, an east-west street linking Sandhurst Circle to McCowan Road, and a network of internal roads to create additional pedestrian, cycling and vehicular connections through the blocks.
Wrapping around the retained mall, blocks would include six towers ranging in height from 22 to 33 storeys, along with a pair of 12-storey mid-rise buildings to the north.
Primarily residential, these buildings will combine for a whopping 2,555 units supporting the mall, including 216 dedicated for seniors. The remaining units are planned in a breakdown of 1,595 one-bedrooms (68 per cent), 512 two-bedrooms (22 per cent) and 232 three-bedroom units (10 per cent).
All of this new residential density and street grid would be woven together through five publicly accessible open spaces (POPS) and two new public park opportunities throughout the project site.
These spaces will include a gateway POPS at the southwest corner of the site, a second gateway POPS at the southeast corner, a third gateway space to the northeast, and two more outdoor spaces on McCowan Road.
These POPS would be complemented by a central public park along Finch and a north park on the northwest portion of the site along Sandhurst.
As for that building's legacy, Principal architect Barry Graziani didn't even defend his work when confronted by an architecture critic in 2017, saying that Aura was "clumsily articulated in cheap windows," laughing off the critique and remarking, "That's the rendering… And in Toronto you build to a budget."
Regardless of what the future holds in terms of design, the influx of new residents is expected to breathe new life into the aging mall.
Woodside Square has been around since 1977, undergoing a massive makeover in 2019 that updated the space for a new generation of use, now set to include thousands of added residents and businesses to form a critical mass capable of supporting the mall well into the future.
The mall itself is proposed to undergo further upgrades including a recladding as part of the project, while the residential buildings themselves are expected to be realized in phases over the five years following approval.
To recap, the growing list of Toronto malls facing redevelopment now includes Scarborough Town Centre, Yorkdale, Sherway Gardens, Fairview Mall, the ongoing redevelopment of Galleria Mall, Yorkgate Mall, Jane Finch Mall, Agincourt Mall, Atrium on Bay, Dufferin Mall, Centrepoint Mall, Cloverdale Mall, Malvern Town Centre, and Woodside Square.
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