Yorkdale Shopping Centre, where Highway 401 meets Allen Road in North York, has been at the forefront of the Toronto retail market since its construction in 1963. Yorkdale has solidified itself as a leader in the Canadian retail industry and is Toronto’s most successful shopping destination, boasting Canada's highest per square foot sales in 2017. Owned and managed by Oxford Properties, the mall has become central to Toronto’s economy as it has grown, and now counts nearly two million square feet of floor area. The immensity of the mall, combined with Oxford's corporate strategy of sustainable innovation, has to lead to the implementation of environmental projects that capitalize on the significant infrastructure in place. 

Yorkdale Shopping Centre, TorontoAerial view of the roof-top solar panels, image courtesy of Yorkdale

Oxford's environmental programs are designed to benefit the community and the surrounding ecosystem using more than 200,000 of its 1.5M ft² real estate. We were invited by Oxford to visit the mall's roof and get a first-hand look at the initiatives. Leading the tour was Claire Santamaria, the centre’s general manager, who affirmed that “We’re just getting started using our rooftops to help lighten the environmental footprint at Yorkdale”. The building’s vast rooftops now include green roofs, solar panel installation, beehive adoption, and an 'Elevated Eats' garden. Oxford's aim is to reduce its carbon footprint by lowering energy use improving environmental quality. 

Yorkdale Shopping Centre, TorontoView of roof-top solar panels, image via Yorkdale

The solar panel installation on the mall's roof is one of the largest in the Greater Toronto Area, with more than 600 panels and 7 inverters. The panels—spanning more than a kilometre in length—produce approximately 234,140 kWh annually, equivalent to the annual energy consumption of 40 residential homes, and providing for a quarter of Yorkdale's interior and exterior lighting usage. 

Solar panels, green roof at Yorkdale Shopping Centre, TorontoSolar panels alongside green-roof, image by Louis-Thomas Kelly

In addition, Oxford has installed a vast green roof totalling 150,000 ft². The living roof helps to save energy by reducing atmospheric heating, mitigating local air pollution, and managing surface water run-off. The rainwater collection system results in a self-sustaining ecosystem atop the mall. Moreover, the green roof, as of this summer, has added honeybees: part of a two-year test program, two bee-hives have been adopted from Avéole, an urban beekeeping company. With 5000 current inhabitants, the two-rooftop hives will ultimately house 50,000 bees that will travel up to 5km, improving pollination in surrounding the Yorkdale neighbourhood.

Yorkdale Shopping Centre, TorontoRoof-top beehives, image via Yorkdale

Above a parking structure on the east side of the site you will find Elevated Eats, an urban garden that provides educational opportunities for area students. Launched by Frankie Flowers in collaboration with a number of sponsors, 30 varieties of seasonal fruits and vegetables have been planted in the garden. Yields will be donated to local food banks to ensure an impactful contribution to the community. 

Green roof at Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Toronto Elevated Eats community garden project, image by Louis-Thomas Kelly

Oxford Properties plans to expand the grassroots initiatives as the mall continues its continued growth.

What is your take on the initiatives? You can get in on the conversation in our thread, linked below with our database file for the mall, or you can leave a comment in the space provided on this page.