Located in the sprawling megasuburb of Mississauga, Ontario, Square One Shopping Centre is one of the largest malls in Canada and the second largest in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), behind Eaton Centre downtown. As a mega-regional mall, Square One draws from an impressive trade area encompassing the entire Golden Horseshoe, a term for the highly populated arc of provincial Ontario surrounding the shores of Lake Ontario from Greater Toronto to Fort Erie, also including Hamilton, Niagara Falls, and St. Catharines. With over 8 million people, one out of four Canadians lives within the Golden Horseshoe and thus Square One’s trade area, making it a very important mall. The mall itself is a monster melange of stores and services in a very unique floorplan, as a result of many different updates and expansions throughout the years, but we’re also interested in how the mall has functioned as the centerpiece for the City of Mississauga since its inception in 1974.
Indeed, the City of Mississauga’s existance is relatively recent, and moreso amazing is the fact that it has grown to a population of over 700,000 residents and has more than doubled in the past 20 years. Mississauga emerged from the amalgamation of several existing communities, some of them over a century old themselves, such as Port Credit, Streetsville, Malton, Cooksville and Clarkson. However, most of present-day Mississauga was agricultural until even the first half of the 20th century.
By the 1960s, however, a lot of post-WWII suburban-growth had spilled over from Toronto and many settlements had sprung up such as Meadowvale and Erin Mills, so a provincial decree set up the Town of Mississauga in 1968, which amalgamated many of these towns into one geographic giant. Then, in 1974, Mississauga incorporated as a city, and with it came the plans for the new city center which was to feature government offices, as well as a gigantic mall. Are we loving this already?
Square One Shopping Centre opened in late 1973, just a few months prior to Mississauga being officially incorporated, in order to provide a centerpiece for the newly formed city. It is located at Highway 403 and Hurontario Street. Square One opened anchored by Dominion, Woolco, The Bay, and Sears. Today, however, only a shadow of the original mall exists as it has expanded many times into the piecemeal success story it is today.
As mentioned, Mississauga grew rapidly as a bedroom suburb for Toronto during the 1980s and 1990s, and is still growing rapidly even today. To accomodate this sprawl, Square One was expanded several times during the 1980s, adding over 80 stores and a million more square feet in selling space. Woolco closed in the 1990s as that chain went out of business, and it was replaced by a 220,000 square-foot Wal-Mart store. When Eatons closed in 1999, it was replaced with Canada’s largest Zellers. In 2000, the most recent expansion occurred. Called Cityside, it added a Cineplex Odeon theatre as well as a more upscale, modern wing featuring many fashion designer boutiques as well as stores from the ’States. Then, most recently, the entire center was given the once-over and remodeled, culminating in late 2006. Three distinct neighborhoods exist within the mall with carpeted transitional areas.
The overall design and decor of Square One definitely reflect how the mall has changed in pieces over the years. The modern, most recent addition features marbled floors and an overall whitewashed look which has been popular in malls as of recent. The older wings vary, from the Milanese Galleria-style glass enclosure popular in the 1980s to darker 1970s tones with dark tiled flooring. Really, the mall is amazing because it has nearly every period of decor imaginable. In addition, the way the mall is set up is similar to that of the Mall of America, only modified and not as tall. A square perimeter of enclosed space connects all four anchors on the upper level, with a triangular series of hallways appended onto one end. The lower level is more curiously set up, with hallways zig-zagging off a main corridor connecting Zellers to the food court area.
So what’s next for the future of Square One? Today, Mississauga has over 700,000 residents and is Canada’s sixth largest city. Yet Toronto, the country’s largest city, is only 20 minutes away. So albeit a giant, Mississauga lives in the shadows of its older big brother next door. However, Mississauga is currently in the process of repositioning its image from suburban bedroom community to a city with its own legs, and its own real urban downtown. As such, the city has forged a relatively new downtown skyline centered near the mall featuring skyscrapers of 30 to 50 stories. In 2006, a design competition was held to build another 50-story condominum tower, which will be visually shocking and called Absolute World. In addition, numerous community festivals are centered around this new urban core of Mississauga, which once again was originally predicated on a mall which still thrives.
There are other large malls in the GTA, but only Square One has become the realized centerpiece for an entire community. With a great central location between the City of Toronto and the rest of the Golden Horseshoe, Square One will continue to dominate well into the future. I took the pictures featured with this post in January 2006. As always, comments and more information is always appreciated.