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From today's Star..........







Mississauga grows up
For decades, the fast-growing region west of Toronto has been synonymous with urban sprawl

Now, as land disappears, it's aiming to be the `poster child' for smart growth, Joseph Hall reports

JOSEPH HALL
STAFF REPORTER

Drive south on Mavis Rd. as it passes over Highway 403 in Mississauga and sneak a peek to your left.

It can't be — but it is. Off in the middle distance, you'll see the unmistakable emergence of ... a skyline.

Yup. There in the centre of a city that could rightfully be called the Sultan of Sprawl in Canada, a race to the heavens is well underway.

With cranes silhouetted atop rising cement towers, and new, glass-lined condominiums poking toward the clouds, the country's most horizontal municipality is developing, at long last, a vertical downtown core.

"We're at a transition point where we're moving away from being a green fields municipality where farmers' fields are being taken up for low-density development," says Mississauga planning commissioner Ed Sajecki.

"In the past several years we've just seen explosive, high-density growth around the city centre."

It's no coincidence, of course, that this intensification epiphany comes as Mississauga is running out of land to sprawl.

So now, with the approval last month of the largest vertical project in the city's history — one that will include 40-, 45- and 50-storey condominium towers among some 30 new buildings — Mississauga is fulfilling a downtown densification commitment that has lain dormant in its official plan for decades.

That latest project, to be built by Vancouver's Amacon Development Inc., is scheduled to break ground just west of the city's Square One shopping mall sometime next year. It will draw some 12,000 new residents over the next decade.

"In total, we have about 15,000 units of residential space in the mill around the city centre," Sajecki says.

"We have about 6,500 units currently existing and we've got at least 8,500, maybe closer to 10,000 units in various stages of approval."

That represents about 35,000 new people in downtown Mississauga and a radical departure from the city's traditional growth tactics, Sajecki says.

A hodgepodge amalgam of rural towns and villages that were legislated together in 1974, Mississauga morphed over the ensuing decades into a ground-level behemoth of some 640,000 people.

Gradually infilling the farmland between Cooksville, Malton, Streetsville and Port Credit with tracts of single-family homes, low-rise offices, strip malls and factories, the city "grew out" like no other.

With the exception of the high-rise apartments and condos that line segments of Hurontario St., the city's main north-south thoroughfare, Mississauga has devoted itself almost exclusively to sprawl-style growth. Indeed, the city has virtually sprawled out to its very boundaries.

In only three decades of existence, Mississauga added some 440,000 residents — the bulk of these moving into single-family, multi-garaged homes.

And the classic accoutrement to this urban sprawl, the giant suburban shopping mall, became the city's de facto downtown core.

With 360 stores and 8,700 parking spaces to feed it, Square One is the largest shopping mall in Ontario.

But even with development plans around it only fractionally complete, the mall is already being dwarfed by the neighbouring condo towers.

"It's been a challenge — how do you build a city centre around a big shopping mall?" says Sajecki, who readily acknowledges Mississauga's past predilection for sprawl.

"But we would like to become the poster child for urban smart growth, and I think we're well on our way towards doing that."

This opinion might be overly optimistic, many urban planning experts say. With the city running out of land, it may be too late to fix many of the most pressing sprawl-inspired problems.

But that doesn't mean Mississauga is not going to try, Sajecki says.

Mississauga City Hall is a massive, sand-coloured building that stands just west of Square One and celebrates, architecturally, a rural heritage the municipality thoroughly cannibalized.

Segmented into four connected parts, the building thematically represents agricultural structures that have been all but swept from the city's landscape.

A farmhouse, a barn, a silo, and a windmill are all mirrored in the hall's motifs.

But stand atop the central, "farmhouse" tower and there's almost nothing of these rural roots anywhere in sight.

From Lake Ontario in the south, to the distant Caledon hills in the north, the view presents a nearly unbroken panorama of sprawling business and suburbia.

Close by, however, things are changing. A lot.

"As you see, there are basically cranes on every corner and there's an explosive amount of condominium construction happening," says Sajecki, surveying the view from a city hall balcony.

"The Amacon project alone will result in another 12,000 people moving into the city centre."

Approved by an eight to one vote at city council last month, the Amacon development will emerge to the west of city hall on a plot of scrub land running from Burnhamthorpe Rd. north to Rathburn Rd. and encompassing 12 hectares.

Amacon marketing head Cameron McNeill says the new development, which will see buildings from three storeys to full-blown skyscrapers, is being fuelled by a new consumer demand for high-density accommodations.

"The allure of being out in the 'burbs and the picket fences is diminishing fast," says McNeill.

"People are really trying to get back to a sense of community and even if that means vertical communities, that's okay."

When you build out as far as you can, up is the only option left, counters University of Toronto urban expert Eric Miller.

Be that as it may, however, the Amacon project is slated to play a big part in creating a high-density community in central Mississauga, should it unfold as planned over the next eight to 15 years.

Preliminary plans for the 6,000-unit development include at least one 50-storey tower, which at 154 metres will be the city's tallest building. For a similar-sized building in Toronto, look at the 49-storey Harbourview Estates condominium tower that just topped off to the southwest of the Rogers Centre.

But it will also boast a series of low-rise, town house properties and a host of "quaint" shops and civic squares to help build a grade-level "village" within the glass canyons.

"We're excited about having something that doesn't have a lot of uniformity to it," says McNeill.

"We want to have something that is a really animated, pedestrian friendly and varied project. An urban village in the `old world' sense."

Having said that, however, McNeill stresses that no architectural plans have been rendered on any of the project buildings.

And while the height and placement of each has been determined under the municipally approved plan, no one has any idea yet what the ultimate structures will look like. Early drawings are only conceptual in nature.

"We could be hiring numerous architects so that every tower doesn't look the same," McNeill says. "Our vision is Manhattan, Vancouver, San Francisco ... where every building on every corner is unique."

The project drew a modicum of resistance when it was unveiled last month, with several residents of a condominium to the north complaining that Amacon buildings would block views of the lake to the south.

In response, the city ordered alterations to some of the proposed towers, leaving existing sight lines largely open.

In the end, the driving force behind development will be customer demand. And if housing preferences are altered — or economies go south — in the coming years, then the project's ultimate shape could shift substantially.

As it now stands, however, the plan fits in precisely with Mississauga's desire to create a vibrant central core — a vertical downtown that could help lift the city out of its dreary suburban mould.

And it is far from the only project contributing to that shift.

One of the most desolate ground eaters — Square One's massive parking lot — will conceivably play host to a major piece of the urban intensification, Sajecki says.

The introduction of structured parking at the mall will free up surface space that could be used for a road network leading to new retail, high-rise residential and office developments.

As well, recently built, approved and pending development outside of the Amacon property itself includes at least 17 towers of 25 floors or more. Four of those towers reach up to 35 storeys or higher, with one topping out at 40 floors.

Just outside the planning department's designated and somewhat arbitrary downtown envelope, more than a dozen high-rise towers have already been built, with several more pending.

"The spinoff benefits of all this is that the kind of amenities you'd see in a traditional downtown — the restaurants and the retail and the public spaces — will come and they will be filled with people," Sajecki says.

The new residents will also provide ready patrons for events at the Mississauga Living Arts Centre and Central Library, both adjacent to the city hall building, he says.

Most importantly, Sajecki says, the new downtown will serve to anchor an exclusive, bus-only transitway the city hopes to build along the Eglinton Ave./Highway 403 corridor as the backbone of its transit system.

The bus rapid transit line will run from Erin Mills to the west, through the city centre area, past the airport and on into Toronto.

"That is our number one priority for the city centre area," Sajecki says.

"We believe that the bus rapid transit route will help to build up a commercial office presence in the downtown as well."

But this late conversion to high density may have little impact on the city's core sprawl problems, says the U of T's Miller, head of the school's Joint Program in Transportation

In particular, the traffic congestion that's plagued Mississauga — a product of its car dependent suburbia — is unlikely to be affected by the central development.

"I think Mayor (Hazel) McCallion is a genuine convert to this (smart growth) type of development," Miller says.

"But if this (downtown buildup) is done just in isolation, then it probably doesn't accomplish too much."

To really combat sprawl-inspired congestion — as well as the strip mall dreariness of suburbia in general — the same kinds of intensified development would likely have to be built on any available space throughout the city, Miller says.

"If it's the first shot in a long war, then maybe it's not bad," he says.

Miller says Mississauga's foray into high-density residential building is fundamentally different from the railway lands condominium boom now underway in downtown Toronto.

"The railway lands are an extension of an already developed downtown and it will be piggybacking on an existing transit system as well as the existing downtown entertainment and retail (amenities)."

In Mississauga, of course, "downtown" is still under construction.

Additional articles by Joseph Hall
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
"The urban format of Mississauga is a total mess."


Of course it is...what post-war suburban sprawl zone isn't?

But the amazing thing is, not only is Mississauga trying to do something about it, it may actually acomplish something resembling an urban format...if not the whole city, then at least for a small part of it.

And who can argue about skyscrapers and density? We already have a 505 footer announced for it's downtown...maybe even taller ones will follow? Davies Smith Developments just had a full page ad in today's Star announcing their new Solstice tower...38 floors. Looks a bit like Citygate, and appears to be part of a twin tower project.

Hey...it's never going to be Barcelona, but at least it will show that "something" can be done to improve things. And you never know...once it gets a somewhat urban downtown, it can work on fixing some other areas of the city.

At least it's encouraging.





KGB
 

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Wow in decades to come, Mississauga might just have a skyline that's bigger than Vancouver's. :runaway:
 

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living off Can. welfare
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In order for that to happen, there would have to be highrises on every block from Mavis Rd to Hurontario St, Burnhamthorpe Rd. to Eglinton Ave.
 

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That latest project, to be built by Vancouver's Amacon Development Inc., is scheduled to break ground just west of the city's Square One shopping mall sometime next year. It will draw some 12,000 new residents over the next decade.
Suprise Suprise
 

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I think it means:

crap buildings built in mississauga by amacon = surprise surprise
where else can someone get away with building retirement grade residential for the mass public. Eden Park, even is pretty bad even for MCC standards. Looks more like something that should go around South Common Mall.
 

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This is good news ! I don't think anyone outside of the GTA considers Missy as anything more than a bedroom community of TO right now. Unfortunate but true....it's getting big enough now that it can define itself. Who knows...in the future it may overtake Toronto for reasons we can't appreciate now.
 

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LooselogInThePeg said:
This is good news ! I don't think anyone outside of the GTA considers Missy as anything more than a bedroom community of TO right now. Unfortunate but true....it's getting big enough now that it can define itself. Who knows...in the future it may overtake Toronto for reasons we can't appreciate now.
It wont' overtake Toronto, it will be ammalgamated sooner than we may think...
 

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Torontonian 4ever
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So how many years do you think it will be until Mississauga becomes officially part of the city of Toronto, and is it feasible?
 

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"Suprise Suprise"

What - aren't you aware of the GTA's huge residential market and how every developer from Montreal to Edmonton to Calgary to Vancouver all want a piece of it
 

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valantino said:
That's what Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, etc etc. thought.:D

It's a matter of time, Hazel is holding this city afloat, the next mayor I bet won't be as succesful.
 

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CrazyCanuck said:
The only way Mississauga will get amalgamated with Toronto, is if you grab it out of Hazel Mcallions hands when shes dead.
That's what I was thinking lol, I bet Mississauga will go downhill without her as mayor. And we know she will rule until death, she hardly has opposition.
 

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The only way Missi is going to be amalgamated into Toronto is if they're forced to by the provincial government. But even then, there's a difference. In the next round (if there were to be one) it might well be Missi that swallows up places like Brampton and Oakville. That's as opposed to Toronto incorporating Missi into it's own political body. If Missi had enough 'gravity' it would be able to resist annexation with Toronto. Imagine if Mississauga was a million people by 2030 (not too difficult I don't think); there would be plenty of resistance to the idea of being governed by people further East on the QEW.
 

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LooselogInThePeg said:
The only way Missi is going to be amalgamated into Toronto is if they're forced to by the provincial government. But even then, there's a difference. In the next round (if there were to be one) it might well be Missi that swallows up places like Brampton and Oakville. That's as opposed to Toronto incorporating Missi into it's own political body. If Missi had enough 'gravity' it would be able to resist annexation with Toronto. Imagine if Mississauga was a million people by 2030 (not too difficult I don't think); there would be plenty of resistance to the idea of being governed by people further East on the QEW.
Yup, probably it will happen that Missi gobbles up the whole Peel region. But you never know, that's what happened years ago in Etobicoke. All the little towns were gobbled up by the city of Etobicoke who was later sucked up by Toronto.
 

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Filip said:
Yup, probably it will happen that Missi gobbles up the whole Peel region. But you never know, that's what happened years ago in Etobicoke. All the little towns were gobbled up by the city of Etobicoke who was later sucked up by Toronto.
Of course, what I was getting at isn't that Missi would overtake Toronto anytime soon....that's just not likely. What I mean is that if enough corporations find themselves seriously considering Missi for their head offices it wouldn't be that long before it became a major center in it's own right.
 
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