Josh Bergant, News Reporter
One of Etobicoke’s historically significant malls could be getting a gigantic upgrade. Quadreal Property Group, the owner of Cloverdale Mall, has put forth a master-plan to redevelop roughly 13-hectares of land that sits between Highway 427, the East Mall and Dundas Street West.
The master plan, as presented to a crowd of Etobicoke residents in a third round of community consultations that date back to December 2018, included a bevy of different residential and commercial developments. Discussion of the plan mainly centred around its use of sustainable planning practices, upgraded urban amenities and the reinvention of the Dundas Street West and East Mall corridor as a “new, liveable space.”
A significant portion of the property would be carved up into parkland, something Ralph Giannone, the architect for the project, said would “positively affect the surrounding community members and help create a more vibrant community as a whole.”
The master-plan, which includes 15 new towers, was designed with “[places like] Regent Street in London in mind,” Giannone said. He said the development of the master plan relied on the designs of “piazzas in the traditional sense and style. “Ultimately, we wanted to recreate a space where intimate mercantile action could happen,” Giannone said.
A new Etobicoke Civic Centre, which is under construction, was also referenced by Giannone as indicative of the transformation of the corridor. “We wanted to create a sort of dumbbell between Cloverdale and the new Civic Centre,” he said.
Quadreal, a subsidiary of British Columbia Investment Trust (BCI), manages more than a hundred properties across Canada, and aims to develop many of them into mixed-use commercial and residential properties. The desire for re-development also comes in a wave of similar projects and plans across Canada and the U.S as mid-sized malls and other similar commercial spaces fall out of favour with potential shoppers.
“[Cloverdale] as it stands has seen a significant hit to customer traffic due to a variety of factors related to e-commerce and big-box power centre types of retail options,” said Toby Wu, the senior vice president of development at Quadreal .
Ben Gilbank, director of development at Quadreal, said the plan proposes significant changes to the community. “Downtown, at the moment, is a crowded, hot place in terms of development, and [Quadreal] wants to bring all the amenities found downtown out to Etobicoke,” he said.
“There’s a lot of excitement with this new reinvention of Cloverdale Mall,” Gilbank said. “We’ve worked closely with organizations like Arts Etobicoke and the Etobicoke School of the Arts to bring programming to the community space we developed inside Cloverdale.”
Arts Etobicoke — in 1973 to provide a voice for the local arts community — was approached by the developer to start an art program in the community, he said.
“We basically cold-called them and told them here is what we want to do. Things just sort of developed from that point onward,” Gilbank said. A portion of the units in the project would be set aside for affordable housing. Affordable housing is defined by units or properties that typically go for lease rates that range under the market average for any given area.
Laurie Snure, the general manager of places4students.com, a rental listing site for students searching for accommodation in the immediate vicinity surrounding college and university campuses, highlighted difficulties with finding affordable student housing in the GTA.
“Students are typically on restricted budgets. A lot of the listings in and around the Humber College properties range in the area of $800 to $1,500,” she said. “Some are priced even higher. Affordability is usually a big factor in where students choose to study.” Safety and transit access predominantly account for a student’s decision on where to rent. Safety is also a serious concern when renting at off-campus property, she said.“We keep detailed notes on each landlords account,” Snure said.
Mark Taylor, accounts director for places4students.com, said the Greater Toronto Area market the most expensive for student housing.
“Student housing follows the same price trends as the rest of the housing market generally. The more units that become available the lower rent becomes and more amenities are introduced,” Taylor said. The official rezoning process for Cloverdale begins in March 2020.