With the curtain down on a 330,00 ft² expansion, Toronto's Yorkdale Mall has added another 18 stores to what is now an imposing 1,845,725 ft² complex. Yet, although the marked increase in retail offerings—some of which are Canadian and global firsts—means there's plenty more to buy, the Oxford Properties mall strives to become a place to be as much as a place to shop. 

Yorkdale Mall, Toronto, by Oxford PropertiesA new entrance to Yorkdale Mall's east side, image by Craig White

Entering the new 112,000 ft² east corridor from the subway bridge that now feels much closer to the mall, dramatically high ceilings establish a clean but decidedly grand ambiance. Amplifying the generous proportions facilitated by Yorkdale's mostly single-storey layout, the inclusion of windows above the storefronts creates an feeling of openness.  

Yorkdale Mall, Toronto, Oxford PropertiesA number of stores are still to open in the expansion, image by Craig White

The recently opened expansion is anchored by a three-storey, 188,000 ft² Nordstrom flagship. Located at the heart of the new corridor, Nordstrom's second Toronto location (and the fifth in Canada) shares the Eaton Centre store's amenities.

Yorkdale Mall, Toronto, by Oxford PropertiesNordstrom on opening day, image by Craig White

Alongside racks of luxury clothing, the café, bar, and art collection, invite shoppers to linger in a high-design space. For the retailer, it's an attempt to make the store into a destination in its own right, rather than just a point of purchase.

Yorkdale Mall, Toronto, by Oxford PropertiesArtwork (left) is dotted throuhgout Nordstrom, image by Craig White

Opened earlier today, the American department store replaces a former multi-level parking garage, with the new exterior facing the Allen Road to its east. Despite a comparably peripheral location among North York's parking lots and highways, the Yorkdale Nordstrom's glassier and more dynamic exterior—illuminated at night—arguably does a slightly better job engaging its surroundings than its lifeless Yonge Street counterpart.

Yorkdale Mall, Toronto, by Oxford PropertiesNordstrom by night, image by Craig White

As reported in the Toronto Star, much of Nordstrom's drive for amenities and high design is a response to the growing preponderance of online shopping. And with everything available online, being able to try it on in-store is not always enough of a draw. Retailers need more. As CROP's market researcher Alain Giguère told the Star, "[w]e're into an experience economy." For shoppers, the experience of 'being there' has become a big part of the draw. In a sense, standing in line for the new Canada Goose store can be as valuable as the puffy coat on the other side of the glass. 

Yorkdale Mall, Toronto, by Oxford PropertiesThe expanded Yorkdale is selfie-ready, image by Craig White

Meanwhile, shopping malls and department stores are also coming to accommodate the changing dynamics of urban life. As Dialog's Susan Carter told the Star, the growing need for a 'third place' beyond work and home is reflected in the evolving and increasingly amenity-rich retail landscape. With more of us now living in relatively compact urban homes, enhanced investment in quality of space is turning department stores and shopping centres into supplemental living spaces. 

Yorkdale Mall, Toronto, by Oxford PropertiesLooking west, a number of pre-existing stores have been expanded, image by Craig White

On either side of Nordstrom, meanwhile, newly opened retailers now fill nearly the entirety of the corridor. While a number of spaces remain covered by hoarding, most of the expanded space is animated by recently unveiled stores. Alongside the department store, the expanded mall is now anchored by new retailers, including the second Toronto locations for popular Japanese brands Uniqlo and Muji, which occupy neighbouring spaces. 

Yorkdale Mall, Toronto, by Oxford PropertiesUniqlo and Muji, image by Craig White

The newcomers include Oak + Fort, Strellson, Reiss, Maje, Samsung, Saje, Mackage, NYX, Spareparts, and Wolford. Meanwhile, a number of stores, such as the first Toronto location for French fashion brand Sandro, are yet to open.

Yorkdale Mall, Toronto, by Oxford PropertiesThe new corridor, image by Craig White

Some of the new corridor's stores—including Mendocino, Lululemon, and Williams-Sonoma—have also relocated to larger premises from other parts of the mall, allowing for the reconfiguration of older spaces. As a consequence of the expansion, retailers including Zara, H&M, and Sportchek, have enlarged their stores. Meanwhile, a 69,000 ft² Restoration Hardware will also join the mall as another anchor tenant next year, replacing much of the former Sears store. 

Yorkdale Mall, Toronto, by Oxford PropertiesThe future Restoration Hardware, image by Craig White

Yorkdale is now also home to North America's first ARC'TERYX mall store, as well as the world's first standalone Canada Goose retailer. Next month, a second location for the Canadian outerwear brand is expected to open in New York.

Yorkdale Mall, Toronto, by Oxford PropertiesArtwork in the new corridor, image by Craig White

Alongside the global brands, Toronto's own Nadège Patisserie also claims a prominent space. Bringing a local flavour to what remains a mostly corporate environment, the independent bakery—also found on Queen West, Summerhill, and Adelaide—introduces an element of Toronto's urban culture to the mall.

Yorkdale Mall, Toronto, by Oxford PropertiesCanada Goose and Nadege, image by Craig White

Nadège fronts onto an open space—furnished with public seating—overlooking the Allen Road. Surrounded by a large-scale public art installation—Baycrest's 'the brain project'—the space is emblematic of the evolving mall. A decade ago, sitting by the window next to a Queen West patisserie hardly seemed like a mall experience. Now it is. 

Yorkdale Mall, Toronto, by Oxford PropertiesPublic seating in front of Nadege, image by Craig White

In an era of ubiquitous and limitless online retail, the bells and whistles boil down to an effort to highlight the experience over the product. In 2016, the product is at our fingertips anytime and anywhere. It is everywhere, but the advantage of the mall is that's it's somewhere. At the end of it, of course, the hope is that this will all lead back to buying something. If quality of place is becoming the appeal, then the mall is becoming an exercise in its monetization. 

***

We will keep you periodically updated as Toronto's malls continue to evolve. In the meantime, more information about Yorkdale is available in our dataBase file, linked below. What do you think of Yorkdale Mall's expansion? Leave a comment in the space provided on this page, or join the conversation in our associated Forum thread.