What to expect in Mississauga in 2020

 

Mississauga has always been growing, but the city of over 700,000 people has undergone fairly monumental changes over the past few years—and 2019 was a huge year for infrastructure (LRT) and development projects (Brightwater, Lakeview Village) in the city. 

So, what can residents expect in 2020? 

Insauga.com recently chatted with Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie about how far the city has come (especially in the last year) and how much further it will go. 

"It's been a terrific year, we have accomplished a lot. Mississauga is gaining momentum. When I look at our accomplishments over the past year, they outweigh what we accomplished in previous years," Crombie told insauga.com. 

"It makes me realize how much Mississauga has grown and changed. I think we're being recognized around the country with things like Jurassic Park West and the She the North Rally for Bianca Andreescu. Those events attracted tens of thousands of people."

This past year was an interesting one for Canada's sixth-largest city. When Crombie says that Mississauga is gaining momentum, she isn't wrong. Over the past decade, the city has welcomed a huge number of sleek condo towers (with 46 more proposed for the City Centre area), built The Mississauga Transitway (a bus rapid transit system), began construction on the Hurontario LRT, endorsed two major lakefront redevelopment projects in Port Credit and Lakeview, launched a tourism program and fought for freedom from the Region of Peel.

While the city hasn't accomplished all of its goals, it has worked to redefine itself as a metropolitan destination in its own right and not just a suburban extension of Toronto.

One way it's setting itself apart? Keeping people in the city during huge events. 

This past spring and summer, the city decided to transform Celebration Square into Jurassic Park West during the NBA Finals—and the initiative was a huge success.

Crombie says that over the course of the six Toronto Raptors games shown at the square, 112,5000 people showed up. 

"We have up to 30,000 capacity in our square, and we got close to that. One rainy night, we still attracted about 5,000 people," Crombie said. 

"It was an idea we had and then we thought, let's do Jurassic Park West. City staff are used to putting on festivals and we're so accustomed to putting on large events at Celebration Square."

Mississauga also made headlines when it hosted the She The North Rally for rising tennis superstar Bianca Andreescu. The event, hosted to celebrate Andreescue's incredible U.S. Open win, attracted thousands of fans and supporters.

Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Toronto Mayor John Tory made appearances at the September event. 

The city also managed to hold onto its highly-anticipated LRT project—a project that looked like it could have been on the chopping block in 2018 when the provincial Conservatives remained quiet on its future for a few stressful weeks. 

While construction on the LRT has been ongoing for some time, residents questioned whether the project—which has already lost its planned City Centre Loop to cut costs—would be cut after the Ontario government announced it was cancelling an LRT planned for Hamilton. 

"The project is not at risk, it's full steam ahead," says Crombie. 

"We had a strong business case for the LRT, as we move 60,000 people a day on buses. Ridership [in Mississauga] is in excess of 33 million every year, whereas ridership in Hamilton is lower. Our operating costs will be lower because of the ridership being higher, and I think that's a big difference. I'm grateful it's moving forward."

The LRT, once completed, will span 18 km and run from Port Credit GO at Lakeshore Rd. in the south to the Brampton Gateway Terminal at Steeles Ave in the north. 

The LRT will boast 19 stops in total. 

As far as other transit projects go, Crombie says she was proud that council passed the city's transportation masterplan (also known as Mississauga Moves) in May 2019. Crombie also said that the city's somewhat controversial Transitway serves over 1 million people a year and that it will continue to push for two-way, all-day GO service on the Milton line. 

Crombie has actually pushed for additional service on the Milton line for some time, arguing that since Mississauga is a net importer of jobs (meaning many commuters work in Mississauga), it needs more inter-city service. 

"More people start and end their day here," she says. 

"Ideally, that train will run in both directions so that people in Toronto can be picked up to go to work in Mississauga. What we need to do is take freight off the CP corridor and build a freight line to the north of the city and open up the current freight line to commuter traffic."

When asked about plans to extend the Eglinton Crosstown LRT to Pearson Airport in Mississauga, Crombie says that any transit project that better connects the entire GTA region is a good one, but is emphatic that the city should not be forced to shoulder any costs associated with the proposed extension. 

"Regionally integrated transit is good news, but we do already run direct buses through MiWay." 

Ultimately, Crombie is taking a risk by pursuing more public transit infrastructure in a city where the car has always been king—but the gamble is worth taking, especially since the city is also working to implement a $457.6 million climate action plan.

"We need to get people out of their cars and onto public transit." 

So, what is the city hoping to achieve next year (and beyond)? 

"Our priorities are always more long-term," she says. "Tackling gridlock, keeping people safe, building transit, housing affordability, looking for foreign direct investment and adding highly skilled jobs." 

A few years ago, the city introduced it's Making Room for the Middle plan, which was designed to find ways to produce more affordable housing for middle-income earners who are being rapidly priced out of the city. According to the Toronto Real Estate Board, the average price of a detached house currently sits at $1,104,975. A semi costs about $768,468, a town costs $609,946 and a condo costs $513,566.

The situation isn't much better for renters, as a recent rentals.ca report found that the average monthly rent in November for one-bedroom units sat at $1,934. Rent for a two-bedroom sits at $2,416.

While Making Room for the Middle works to keep the middle class in Mississauga by protecting current rental stock (a new demolition bylaw requires builders to replaces any rental units they demolish) and incentivizing developers to include affordable rentals in projects, housing still remains a struggle for residents.

Fortunately for residents, however, the city does offer plentiful employment opportunities. 

"We have on average, a very highly educated population. Two-thirds of our residents have a post-secondary degree, and many have professional designations. It's a big advantage when companies are looking to invest," Crombie says. 

Crombie is right that companies are eyeing Mississauga.

Recently, Bombardier announced that Mississauga will be home to a new global manufacturing centre for its Global business jets. The 41.2-acre facility will be located on Toronto Pearson Lands.

Crombie also said that Whites Studios will unveil their studio next year, adding that it's one of many television studios to migrate to the city. 

"We'll have five TV studios in Mississauga," says Crombie, adding that CBS opened a new studio in Mississauga in September. 

The city has also been bullish when it comes to placemaking projects. 

"Brightwater and Lakeview were approved this year," Crombie said. 

On July 31, 2019, Mississauga council formally endorsed the West Village/Brightwater Master Plan. The plan involves the redevelopment of the former Imperial Oil lands (at 70 Mississauga Road S and 181 Lakeshore Road W). The lands will be made into Port Credit West Village (or Brightwater Neighbourhood). 

In November, city council endorsed the Lakeview Waterfront Development Master Plan. The plan sets out the framework for the development of the 177-acre site, which was once home to the Lakeview Power Generating Station lands. According to Lakeview Village Partners (LCP), 

Crombie says the city is also working to secure funding for other placemaking projects in 2020. 

Back in October, Mississauga’s General Committee identified and approved the projects the city will submit for consideration under the federal government’s Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP). 

Crombie says the city is putting forth $847.5 million worth of projects and asking for assistance in funding new buses, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lanes, express corridors, bus shelters and more.

The city is also asking for help to fund improvements to the South Common Community Centre and Library and the public marina and waterfront park in Port Credit.

"In terms of ICIP money, we're prioritizing south common community centre and marina," Crombie says. 

Another issue that has plagued the city is a small but noticeable uptick in violent crime. Crombie says the city is working with Peel Regional Police to address the issues. 

"This year, we saw the appointment of a new police chief," she says, referring to the appointment of former Halton Deputy Chief of District Operations Nishan (Nish) Duraiappah.

"We're doing a service review of the four-station model to ensure there's proper servicing. The Malton police station is coming back, and we hope it will be a full-standing, full-service hub." 

While the city received other exciting announcements over the year—such as the city being chosen as the host community for the 2022 Ontario Summer Games—it was also dealt a rather substantial blow. 

When the Ontario government said it was going to review regional government systems for efficiencies, Mississauga was hopeful that it would finally be able to extricate itself from the Region of Peel. Sadly for Mississauga, the government chose to leave all regional governments in place. 

"We were deeply disappointed," Crombie says. 

"It was a missed opportunity to right some wrongs at the provincial level," she said, adding that when a Mississauga councillor cannot be present at a regional council meeting for whatever reason, the city loses voting power. 

The City of Mississauga has also argued that the regional model, not appropriate for a city of its size, is too costly for Mississauga taxpayers. 

Earlier this year, an Ernst & Young study found that if Mississauga were to separate from the Region, Mississauga taxpayers would see $84 million in savings. This report came after a controversial Deloitte report that suggested the region would be out millions in the event of a separation. 

Since the city cannot separate from the region at this time, it’s pushing for a more equitable division of funding for Peel Regional Police.

"We attempted to address inequity in funding to peel police, so we managed to move a motion to look at different funding models. We'll continue to fund [Peel Regional Police] budget needs, but more will come from Brampton. 

"We're looking for more fairness and equity and more fairness in the funding model," Crombie says. 

Ultimately, it looks like next year will continue to be a big one for Mississauga.

What would you like to see happen in 2020?

Cover photo courtesy of @idris.yyz

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