Toronto City Council was busy last week reviewing a slate of development applications across the city, and arguably two of the largest and most transformative master plans in Toronto received their stamps of approval. After passing the rezoning application for East Harbour, Council gave the green light to the expansive Galleria Mall Redevelopment, which seeks to transform the sprawling site of the current mall at the corner of Dufferin and Dupont Streets into a new high-rise mixed-use residential community. Included in the proposal is a new community centre to replace the existing Wallace-Emerson Community Centre, as well as a completely redesigned Wallace Emerson Park.

Galleria Mall, Freed, ELAD Canada, Hariri Pontarini, Urban Strategies, TorontoRendering of the Galleria Mall redevelopment, image courtesy of Freed and ELAD.

Headed by Freed Developments and ELAD Canada, the project will see eight residential towers constructed on the site comprising a total of 2,846 residential units. Grade-level retail will be incorporated along the new street grid to activate the public realm, with a new community centre and improved streetscape design rounding out the neighbourhood. The design team includes Hariri Pontarini Architects, Urban Strategies, and Public Work. UrbanToronto had a chance to speak with Melanie Hare, partner-in-charge of planning at Urban Strategies, who offered some insight into how this master plan came together.

Galleria Mall, Freed, ELAD Canada, Hariri Pontarini, Urban Strategies, TorontoSite plan, image courtesy of Freed and ELAD.

The rectangular site is bisected by a main diagonal street that runs from the northwest to the southeast corners. All of the residential development will be located north of the diagonal, while the southern half of the site is dedicated to a redesigned Wallace Emerson Park. Three north-south streets connect the diagonal road to Dupont, while a pedestrian mews cuts diagonally to the southwest from the intersection of Dupont and Dufferin where it terminates at Point Plaza, a new POPS created by the intersection of several streets.

Galleria Mall, Freed, ELAD Canada, Hariri Pontarini, Urban Strategies, TorontoRendering of Point Plaza, image courtesy of Freed and ELAD.

Melanie Hare described the new layout and street grid as a direct response to the community's desire lines. Essentially beginning with a blank slate, one large gesture - the diagonal street cutting through the site - reflected the existing desired path of travel across the site, and also provided a clear division between public and private. A second diagonal from Dupont and Dufferin represents another desire line across the site.

Galleria Mall, Freed, ELAD Canada, Hariri Pontarini, Urban Strategies, TorontoRendering looking west along the diagonal street, image courtesy of Freed and ELAD.

According to Hare, community engagement was essential in establishing the basic layout, and the importance of responding to and preserving the local community's wants and needs is evident within the master plan. Recognizing the importance of the mall as a gathering place and focal point of the local community, Hare explained that the design team wanted to recreate this sense of community in the new master plan. Streets are designed with a pedestrian-first approach, while Point Plaza represents a new gathering place and focal point for the community. The new community centre, once it is designed, will also rely heavily on community engagement to inform the programming and design of the building.

Galleria Mall, Freed, ELAD Canada, Hariri Pontarini, Urban Strategies, TorontoRendering looking north at Point Plaza, image courtesy of Freed and ELAD.

The built form on the site is arranged to provide an appropriate transition to the surrounding low-rise neighbourhoods, with the tallest towers located toward the north of the site, stepping down in height towards the west, south, and east. A total of eight towers will be constructed, rising to heights of 35, 32, 29, 26, 25, 23, 21, and 18 storeys. Each of the towers feature varied massing with a series of stepbacks that minimize the impact of their height, sitting atop podiums that vary in height from 2 to 10 storeys. The terracing and stepping back of the buildings also provides architectural variety amongst the built form.

Galleria Mall, Freed, ELAD Canada, Hariri Pontarini, Urban Strategies, TorontoSite plan showing building heights, image courtesy of Freed and ELAD.

Hare explained that other notable aspects are incorporated to include more of the local community within the new neighbourhood. The retail-lined streets will provide necessary services and amenities for locals, enhancing and improving the retail presence that is currently on the site. As well, 150 affordable housing units are included in the master plan, while 50% of all residential units are planned to be two bedrooms or larger, thereby providing an option for families. Finally, Hare pointed out, the phasing of the project also plays a key role in ensuring the community is involved, with the new community centre being constructed during the first phase of development before all residential towers are built out. There will be no interruption in operation of the community centre between the existing and new buildings, and existing key retail tenants will be able to remain open during construction to maintain continuity of services.

Galleria Mall, Freed, ELAD Canada, Hariri Pontarini, Urban Strategies, TorontoVarious renderings of the proposal, image courtesy of Freed and ELAD.

A major issue that has been plaguing the Galleria Mall redevelopment is access to public transit. There is no existing or planned higher-order transit providing access to the site, as the closest subway is Dufferin station, a 15 minute walk to the south. Hare acknowledged that this was an important issue, and highlighted that the project team has been working very closely with the TTC to find a solution. A bus lay-by will be provided along Dufferin, while the streets have been designed to allow for a potential bus loop through the site, with the option for another lay-by to be incorporated on the diagonal street. Ultimately, it is up to the TTC and the City to ensure adequate transit access, and a firm solution has yet to be presented, but Hare was clear that the project team is aware of the concerns and are willing to accommodate a variety of solutions.

Galleria Mall, Freed, ELAD Canada, Hariri Pontarini, Urban Strategies, TorontoRendering of the intersection of Dupont and Dufferin, image courtesy of Freed and ELAD.

With rezoning approved, the Galleria Mall redevelopment has cleared a major hurdle, but it is still fairly early in the planning process and there is still much more to come. We will keep you updated as news becomes available, but in the meantime you can check out more renderings in our database file, linked below, and join in the discussion by checking out the associated Forum thread, or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.