There is a growing list of developments across the city that can be directly attributed to the provision of higher-order transit, but if all goes according to plan, one project in the heart of Scarborough may top the list of prime examples of the truly transformative power that transit can bring.

Recently, Oxford Properties, owners of the Scarborough Town Centre mall, submitted Site Plan Approval (SPA) documents to the City for a relatively benign project. The proposal is to demolish the existing Cineplex cinemas at the southeast corner of the mall to make way for the new Scarborough Centre subway station and transit hub, while constructing a new cinema building on the northeast corner of the mall, adjacent to the former Sears space, which will itself be renovated and subdivided to accommodate new retail tenants. Upon further inspection, however, the submitted documents reveal that this small intervention is Phase 1 of a much larger master plan currently in the works for the mall property.

Rendering of the Phase 1 Sears and Cineplex development, image courtesy of Oxford Properties.

The Scarborough Town Centre master plan is perhaps one of the most ambitious redevelopment schemes Toronto has ever seen. By our count, the master plan proposes a whopping 36 residential towers ranging in height from 20 storeys up to 65 storeys. Each of the towers sits on a podium typically rising 6 storeys, while 9 other mid-rises at heights of 8 to 15 storeys are also proposed. Included in the plan is a generous amount of parkade structures, a new finer-grained street grid, and a myriad of public and private parks and open spaces. The plan preserves the existing mall in its entirety but will replace all of the surface parking surrounding it.

Proposed Scarborough Town centre master plan, image courtesy of Oxford Properties.

The design team for the master plan is comprised of ABBARCH Architecture, Quadrangle, and Urban Strategies. The plan is divided into four main character areas: a retail core centred around the existing mall; an urban core, comprising a high-density residential node around the new subway station; a high-density park-side neighbourhood along the north edge of the site; and a more varied 'residential village' along the western edge of the site.

The scheme focuses on creating a more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly environment throughout the hostile vehicle-dominated property. A fine-grained network of streets, pedestrian promenades, and open spaces will facilitate movement between the different elements of the master plan.

Close-up of the northern portion of the Scarborough Town Centre master plan, image courtesy of Oxford Properties.

The greatest density is concentrated in the southeast corner of the site around the new transit hub, with towers of 45-65 storeys in height. To the north of Progress Avenue, a linear public park runs east-west across the site, to the north of which is a row of high-rise residential development in the 40-storey range which will act as a buffer between Highway 401 and the new public park. The western edge of the site is more varied in height, with mid-rise adjacent to the mall and bordering on Brimley Drive, and high-rises ranging from 25-40 storeys in height in between. Smaller parks and POPS are sprinklered throughout the site to provide more neighbourhood-oriented green spaces.

Close-up of the southeast portion of the Scarborough Town Centre master plan, image courtesy of Oxford Properties.

For the parking structures, the design team has placed them at the centre of each block so as to hide them from view and to provide active uses at street level. The property also has significant changes in grade, which will be navigated with the inclusion of below-grade parking where appropriate and where it does not negatively impact the public realm.

Regarding Phase 1, the former Sears space will be chopped up into at least 18 new retail units spread over the three levels, incorporating small, medium, and large-sized retailers, while the separate Cineplex building will measure over 10,400  in area. Between the new Cineplex and the mall, a raised exterior pedestrian walkway will connect the two, representing a small step in the new public realm network of the master plan.

Rendering of the Phase 1 Sears and Cineplex development, image courtesy of Oxford Properties.

Phase 1 represents a tiny part of the future redevelopment of Scarborough Town Centre, one which hints at an explosion of density that could potentially crop up in the not-so-distant future. Everything is still very conceptual at this stage, but the ambition to transform the disparate suburban fabric of Scarborough Centre into an urban environment is very much apparent.

We will keep you updated of all developments happening in and around Scarborough Town Centre, but in the meantime, you can tell us what you think by checking out the associated Forum thread, or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.