By Monica Kucharski

The City is pondering how to create healthier communities in Mississauga —ones in which Saugans can just walk or bike to work, shop and play.  At the same time, since our population is growing by leaps and bounds, it is also on a quest to create more affordable housing.

It may sound rather strange, but the solution for both may lie in our shopping malls.

At an October planning and development committee meeting, Ward 5 councillor Carolyn Parrish proposed creating affordable residential units above shopping malls. “I think that’s an unused source. It’s air…It would be a good use. It’s got tons of parking and lots of space to throw in some housing,” she said.

Parrish’s idea dovetails with the City’s Re-imagining the Malls Initiative.

At this point, Re-imagining The Malls is still a study to see how we can shape the future development of our malls so it spurs the growth of mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly communities around them.  The typical suburban model on which our City was built—far-flung sprawling subdivisions that necessitate lone driving to any destination point—is not exactly benefiting community spirit or our physical health!

It may be coincidental—or perhaps trailblazer thinking— but one of our malls is already in the process of becoming a “re-imagined” mall.

Square One Shopping Centre is spending $460-million on renovations that include constructing two parks, a landscaped plaza, trees and pedestrian benches in its orbit. Surrounded by many office towers and condos, the area’s residents are within walking or biking access to everything that matters:  shopping, dining, recreation and physical activities.

The City has hired Gladki Planning Associates to undertake the initial phase of the study — collecting data on how malls and surrounding neighbourhoods function together to figure out how to “re-imagine” the status quo.  Do you want to let the City know how you feel about this initiative?  Click here.

As for building affordable housing units above malls, Gladki Planning said it’s not out of the realm of possibility.  Mississauga is the 6th largest municipality in Canada and getting bigger by the minute, while land available for development is getting smaller.

Building affordable residential units above the malls is certainly “thinking out of the box!”  The added bonus for the tenants?  All it would take is an elevator ride for some badly needed retail therapy!