The mall defined suburban culture through the latter half of the 20th century, but times have changed. Factors including the rise in online shopping, closures and rising land values make it more challenging for these large retail centers to compete as the endless demand for new homes causes owners to re-evaluate their properties.
Just east of Toronto, the Pickering Town Center (PTC) is now in its 50th year and serves as a hub for the surrounding city. But it is not the happiest party, as shopping malls are currently operating with skeletal holdings and sharply reduced sales due to the recent round of public health restrictions.
By joining a growing list of malls across the region, PTC’s vast size and endless expanses of parking lots do not make as much sense as in the gas-sucking days when the place was expanded.
Demand for real estate in Toronto’s satellite cities is high, and owner OPB Realty Inc. proposes to make better use of the PTC by reducing the mall by about half and replacing the demolished sections and surrounding parking lots with a massive, high-density, mixed-use community.
A design concept from architectsAlliance sets out details of the planned development, and upgrades the existing branding to Pickering City Center (PCC) in an attempt to reflect the municipality’s growing position on the regional stage.
The PPC plan includes 17 blocks of buildings between 9 and 50 storeys high, with a mix of condominiums, rental and commercial premises. The northern part of the mall would remain, though a wing to the south would be lost to make room for the new density.
While the developers would get a huge boost in housing units at the expense of a reduced retail footprint, a partnership with the City of Pickering would also give the new community a central library, a performing arts center, a seniors and youth center and a network of public open spaces connecting the new buildings as well as the existing town hall to the east.
Of course, things would not happen at once, the plan proposes to build blocks 1 to 9 as a first phase along the eastern edge of the site, replacing the mall’s former Sears store, which was demolished in 2021, as well as parking on the surface.
The future phase will see the removal of the mall’s south wing where Hudson’s Bay is currently located.
All of these new buildings will be serviced by a bottom-up network of municipal and private roads, while the large areas of surface parking will be replaced by new underground garages.
Pickering may get a shiny new skyline out of the plan, but it’s still unconfirmed whether they’ve invested in the upgraded WiFi that Drake asked the city’s mayor about a few years ago.