What is Mississauga's Massive Downtown 21 Plan?

The latest news that the Toronto Region’s Amazon HQ2 bid (which includes Peel Region) has made the online retailer’s shortlist for their secondary headquarters has certainly got a number of people talking and really excited about the prospects of job growth and economic development.

Being the only Canadian region to make that prestigious shortlist, potentially being picked by Amazon will certainly be a game changer for the regional and national economy. But with so many viable sites as options for HQ2, there has also been a lot of talk as to which city or region would get to host the new headquarters within the GTA.

Brampton has proposed a possible Amazon site near the intersection of Highway 407 and the 410, close to Pearson International Airport (which fulfills one of Amazon’s requirements of being near an airport). Halton Region also boasted some possible site locations such as the Highway 401 Fronting Lands in the Derry Green Business Park in Milton, Trafalgar Road and Highway 407 in Oakville, and the Bronte Meadows Employment Area in Burlington.

With development flushing into the rapidly growing downtown core of Mississauga, a potential Amazon HQ2 site in the heart of Canada’s sixth largest city is also another viable option, not to mention a game changer for Mississauga as well. Mayor Bonnie Crombie certainly believes the Mississauga City Centre would be an ideal location.

Mississauga’s thriving, growing and transit-oriented downtown provides Amazon the opportunity to invest, expand and remain ahead of the competition on nearly 180 acres of potential lands located within our mixed-use downtown core,” Crombie said recently.

As the Toronto Global submission highlights, Mississauga’s premier site is adjacent to the Square One Shopping Centre, a major regional retail and commercial destination hub, along with Mississauga City Hall; Central Library - Mississauga’s largest public library; the Living Arts Centre; Mississauga Art Gallery; Sheridan College and the College’s Pilon School of Business; Celebration Square; along with multiple restaurants and amenities. The University of Toronto Mississauga - part of Canada’s largest university - is also linked to the downtown through east-west bus services.”

The Mayor also mentioned the incoming Hurontario LRT (with four stops in the City Centre), the upgraded Square One Bus Terminal, the Downtown 21 Plan and the city’s skilled workforce as highlights of Mississauga’s City Centre as a viable location for the online retailer. Amongst those benefits, the Downtown 21 is certainly something to look at because of the intention to map a blueprint for a urban core in Mississauga long before an Amazon bid came along.

There were so-called ‘master plans’ dating back before Mississauga was incorporated in 1974. The McLaughlin Group (who owned the Square One lands at the time) had a vision for the Square One area that involved elevated walkways and scenic green spaces. They imagined an urbanesque mini-city in the center of the yet-to-sprawl suburb. A place for cars and people, not just people in cars.

Over the next 40 plus years, their vision never quite materialized, but recently people began thinking about resurrecting the idea of turning City Centre into a legitimate urban space. Here are some of the preliminary designs for the Downtown 21 master plan, which began developing almost a decade ago:

This above artistic rendition put forward the idea of eventually putting up residential units on land currently occupied by commercial buildings along Burnhamthorpe and just around Square One. This plan emerged in 2010, but today barely any changes have happened based on this plan.

This picture depicts an aerial bird’s eye view of the Downtown 21 plan, with the blue depicting existing office buildings. While the plan consists of leaving Square One intact because it is privately owned, the surrounding area in the plan was slated for future development, specifically between Square One Drive and Rathburn Road, so there is some room there for a potentially future Amazon headquarters.

But is the Downtown 21 plan compatible with hosting Amazon’s second headquarters, as Mayor Crombie proclaimed in her earlier statements? There would have to be significant amendments to the original plan if a tech giant were to be incorporated into any commercial space available, rezoning may be necessary, and even redefining the boundaries of what is considered downtown Mississauga.

Other than that, you’d have to think of something completely out of the box such as knocking down Square One or the Civic Centre to free up the space necessary for a global headquarters, but that’s never going to fly.

If Amazon decides to pick the Toronto Region, would you like to see HQ2 in downtown Mississauga?

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