5 unbuilt projects that could have changed Mississauga
Mississauga is a city that has been built from the ground up; as such, large scale infrastructure projects are no stranger to Canada's sixth largest city.
The city also has a reputation for being one of the more fiscally prudent managed cities in Canada, with relatively stable tax rates (until recently, when various massive weather events and infrastructure backlogs have steadily led to increasing property taxes and implementation of designated financial levies).
But while the city is home to a variety of big developments (Square One, the Absolute Marilyn Monroe Towers, the Hershey Centre), it's not as though Mississauga built everything that was across the table. There have also been ideas proposed that, although big and innovative, never really made it out of the gate, possibly because of decision makers being more cautious than ambitious, or other external factors that led those projects to find homes elsewhere.
With that in mind, here are 5 projects that were once proposed to be in Mississauga, but never got built.
Mississauga's Own SkyDome?
The Rogers Centre, known to purists as the SkyDome, played host to a variety of sporting events and concerts throughout the calendar year. The SkyDome’s location has also been quite convenient for young couples, families and millennials living up the life in downtown Toronto, as it is within walking distance from a variety of condo residences, as well as being readily accessible to the TTC and other forms of public transit.
But there was a time when this dome could have been in Mississauga. In 1983, then Ontario premier Bill Davis decided to open a competition to design a stadium to be built somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area. Thirteen bids were presented, including submissions from Exhibition Place, Woodbine Racetrack, York University, Richmond Hill, Woodbridge, Downsview…and the City of Mississauga.
Trillium Dome site model, August 1983 (Brampton Times fonds, PAMA)
Mississauga developer Harold Shipp was tasked by then mayor Hazel McCallion to come up with the schematics for a new stadium, and so Shipp conceived the Trillium Dome (see above photo). Shipp chose the location for the Mississauga stadium to be somewhere along Hurontario Street, but unlike the other submissions, Shipp’s dome required no public funds because a ring of commercial and residential development around the dome would fund the entire project.
The site would include hotels, condos, office towers, a convention centre, restaurants, theatres, and recreation facilities for residents. The property would also include parking for 18,000, a Light Rail Transit (LRT) line that would stop under the stadium, and a bus repair and storage facility. Sadly for Mississauga, this bid was ultimately rejected in favour of the present downtown location.
But one has to wonder, if the stadium did get approved for Mississauga instead of Toronto, it would have served out the purpose of fulfilling one of Hazel's visions of having a big event venue that could have been expanded into a hotel and convention centre, like the SkyDome (people staying in the adjacent hotel can watch games from their suite windows). The absence of the Trillium Dome in Mississauga foreshadowed another project that was proposed that never ended up coming to fruition…
The City Centre Hotel / Convention Centre
If you didn't know by now, this was the reason Hazel McCallion became embroiled into those troubling conflict of interest allegations during the last years of her mayoralty. She wanted to have a big hotel convention centre venue like Toronto has, and with Square One being right next to the land in question, those tourist dollars were too much to pass up…not to mention the possible revenues the city could collect from the taxes on the commercial property. Unfortunately, based on her own account in her autobiography, she was not able to land anyone willing to develop the land…except her son, Peter McCallion.
But the junior McCallion didn't exactly have a stellar track record on his resume. McCallion obtained his real-estate license in 1986. By the early '90s, he had made the shift from selling homes to working with commercial clients, but his license was suspended twice, in 2007 and 2009, for not completing required courses and non-payment of fees. Based on that kind of professional track record, it didn't seem that Peter McCallion was the ideal broker to do the deal.
Hazel most likely realized this, because she had to get involved in the negotiations, which led to the conflict of interest charges in the first place. A subsequent judicial inquiry approved by Mississauga City Council found that she was not in contravention of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, but had a "real and apparent" conflict of interest, even though the deal fell through.
Today, the lands in question are home to the Hazel McCallion Sheridan College Campus. While the college serves an important function for young students (and provides some revenue opportunities in the sense that students use city amenities in between their classes), as a postsecondary education institution, there are no revenues that go into the city. Although there are numerous convention centres scattered throughout Mississauga, some would say that this was a missed opportunity to have one located right in the City Centre. I once suggested that the vacant land at the corner of Burnhamthorpe and Confederation could serve as a location for a possible downtown convention centre, but now it's slated to be this massive condo development called M City.
The Mississauga Mega Mall?
The West Edmonton Mall (WEM) out in Alberta is the largest mall in North America, spanning some 3.8 million square feet, big enough to host four movie theatres, a water park, an 18-hole miniature golf course and hundreds of shops that are the standard fare for the ideal shopping mall blueprint. It was only a matter of time before the WEM inspired other jurisdictions to look into setting up their own 'mega malls’ to attract tourists and Mississauga was no exception.
The aptly named “Fantasyworld” was concocted some time during the 1980s, with the proposed location to be south of Pearson International Airport across the way from the present day Centennial Park. Fantasyworld was estimated to be a $1.5 billion amusement park, shopping mall, and recreation complex all in one. The idea was presented to the City of Mississauga by Triple Five Development, the company that actually built the West Edmonton Mall. It was going to be 10 million square feet; in comparison Square One is only 1.7 million square feet.
From Peel Planning Department artwork files, PAMA. This shows the proposed location of Fantasyworld in proportion to existing malls between Mississauga and Toronto.
Fantasyworld was supposed to occupy one-and-a-half million square feet and would include a submarine ride, waterpark and wave pool, marine animal theatre, the world’s largest amusement park, petting zoo, NHL-size arena, interactive space museum, gardens, art exhibits, a sports hall of fame, 20 choreographed fire and water fountains, 26 movie screens, a concert stage, an internationally themed hotel with 1,250 rooms, and “the best shops and boutiques from around the world.”
What killed Fantasyworld in the end? It was just the competition; both Square One as well as Canada's Wonderland were quite vocal about the damage Fantasyworld would cause to their businesses. Mississauga also rejected the first proposed site, which prompted the developers to explore other lands in the area, but ultimately they dropped their proposal. And so sadly, Mississauga’s “Fantasyworld” did not become a reality.
Site plan for proposed mega-mall, 1986 (Peel Planning Department artwork files, PAMA)
This was an unfortunate development, because if you believe in the free market and economic competition, Fantasyworld would have provided a much needed, all purpose entertainment alternative venue for those people who got bored with going to Square One, Yorkville all the time or didn't want to drive up Highway 400 on a particular day.
Of course, a list of unrealized visions of unbuilt mega projects cannot be complete without mentioning...
The Mississauga Subway
Despite the Hurontario LRT proceeding as scheduled as of this writing and the plans to turn the existing GO train lines into 'surface subways' by converting them into regional express rail with all day, two way service, the idea of the Mississauga subway is going to continue to resonate in the minds of people in Canada's sixth largest city well into the coming decades.
Insauga has published numerous articles on this subject, from a former candidate running for city council's take on why it's time to build a subway, to our own unique take on why Mississauga didn't have a subway by now. On April Fools Day we even took advantage of the day of pranking to pull a fast one on all of you (complete with the map seen above showing the 'route' of the subway). We got some angry feedback, but also comments that continued lamenting Mississauga's lack of a subway.
The overall factor that is really preventing a subway, if I could argue for that position for a minute, is political will. With a more viable option in front of them, why would Mississauga councillors risk it all by backing an idea without a credible plan or money behind it? They had a chance once, years ago, when Toronto was planning to extend the existing TTC subway network by the year 2011. That plan included extending the Bloor Danforth west bound line into the Dixie GO station (as cited in this 2001 report), with possible further expansion all the way to the City Centre (making that map we have up top not that far fetched).
Ultimately, extending the Bloor Danforth subway into Mississauga was dead on arrival when the City Centre option was screened from further consideration because the Region of Peel didn’t support the project as part of their official plan, preferring instead a dedicated bus rapid transit corridor and an extension of the then-proposed Eglinton subway line (subsequently reburied by the Mike Harris Conservatives and only now has rapid transit been revived for Eglinton with the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, slated to open in 2021).
The idea of a subway/transit line extending from a large metropolitan city into an adjacent suburb/edge city is not a figment of imagination. Surrey BC has that connection when it comes to Skytrain stations from downtown Vancouver, and Laval in Quebec is home to three Montreal Metro subway stops. Sure, there may be one day when a Mississauga subway from Toronto will grace our presence, but I am sure I will be with my maker when that time comes.
But if you think the unbuilt subway was far fetched and out there, apparently you didn't hear about...
A Mississauga Monorail?
We're not saying that Bruce McLaughlin, the developer who built Square One, was some conniving con man pitching a crazy idea that put places like Brockway, Ogdenville and North Haverbrook on the map....but he was pretty damn close.
Some time ago, Insauga got hold of Mississauga's strategic plans for the City Centre from 1975 and in them included plans to turn the City Centre area into a more futuristic utopia complete with, yes, a monorail. It was known as the Intermediate Capacity Transit System - The ICTS was better known as a monorail, and looking at the map below it looked like it was planned to go towards the Kipling subway station.
These are the five most prominent unbuilt visions for Mississauga that we have documented. Can you think of others that Mississauga passed up on?
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