Mississauga's Erin Mills Town Centre VS Brampton's Bramalea City Centre

Brampton is not as large as Mississauga, but it does have a sizeable shopping mall called Bramalea City Centre (BCC), and I thought it would be fun to look at differences and similarities between BCC and another long standing and similarly sized shopping mall in Mississauga: Erin Mills Town Centre. Here are my observations.

Similarities: both located in 'planned communities' with a similar sense of identity

During the big post-war suburban expansion, developers were keen on building new 'planned communities' on undeveloped land as an alternative to the overcrowded urban cities at the time. In Peel Region, Bramalea and Erin Mills were examples of such 'new towns' established by the development industry as a way of creating communities that could become self-sustaining in the long run. I guess one way to do that was by placing large shopping malls to provide services. Bramalea City Centre opened in 1973, around the same time the city of Brampton was created by the province. The community of Erin Mills was absorbed into the new city of Mississauga around the same year, and Erin Mills Town Centre opened it's doors in 1989.

Both malls also reside in communities that more or less have defined geographic boundaries within their municipalities. The community of Bramalea consists of vast swaths of land just east of Highway 410 (as you can see here from this map). To this day, Erin Mills is defined as such (see here); in fact most of Mississauga's Ward 8 (currently represented by Councillor Matt Mahoney) contains large sections of Erin Mills.

Finally there is a unique sense of identification in those areas; people in Bramalea refer to themselves as being from Bramalea rather than from Brampton. Likewise, there are still people in Erin Mills who say they're from Erin Mills rather than just Mississauga; the presence of local sports teams bearing that name helps verify that. Try saying 'Bramalea' and 'Erin Mills'; don't you find those names roll off the tongue rather naturally?

Difference: types of developments that surround the malls

It only seems natural that residential development would be built around Bramalea City Centre and Erin Mills Town Centre since the goal behind these planned communities was to ensure residents had the amenities and services they needed. While both malls are enclosed by the traditional subdivisions, I do notice a differences in the presence of condominiums.

Around the BCC, specifically if you get off Highway 410 on Clark Blvd and go east, you will notice large numbers of medium to high rise condominiums along that route to the mall; not necessarily as adjacent as those around Square One, but the towers around BCC are within walking distance for people to buy groceries and other accessories. The developers who built Bramalea envisioned a satellite town separate from Brampton, so they built residential developments accordingly to accommodate that objective.

In Erin Mills, there are not that many condominiums in the immediate area of Erin Mills Town Centre. New condos are coming in, such as Daniels Erin Mills (which includes a design similar to the Marilyn Monroes) and Skyrise, currently being built across from Erin Mills Town Centre. The lack of transit in Erin Mills historically has made high density development difficult, but hopefully with the new Mississauga Transitway station nearby, it will spur more high rise apartments.

Difference: the architectural design

Bramalea is a word derived from a combination of 'Brampton', 'Malton' (which subsequently became part of Mississauga) and 'LEA', an old British word meaning meadow or grassland. As such, there is a strong reference to nature inside the BCC. The mall's logo is a leaf, and a number of trees are planted.

This plant is actually one of my favourites:

Nevertheless, BCC is more of a traditional, four sided building. But Erin Mills Town Centre has really embraced more innovative, cutting edge architecture and isn't afraid to shed tradition. When I first moved to Mississauga, Erin Mills Town Centre had a Big Ben style clock tower, and that iconic tower was recently replaced by this amazing spherical construct that looks incredible on the outside as well as the inside. It also has a more circular interior that gives you the sense that you're walking around a mall that seems larger than it actually is.

What do you think? If you've had the opportunity to visit both malls, can you name other similarities and differences between Erin Mills Town Centre in Mississauga and Bramalea City Centre in Brampton?

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