How Mississauga is creating its downtown as a city model
By Tracy HanesSpecial to the Star
Thu., Dec. 5, 2019
An early hub of trade, commerce and connections, downtown Mississauga’s historic legacy is inspiring its Exchange District — one of the city’s newest neighbourhoods.
The Exchange District is a key piece of the city’s ambitious vision, outlined in its updated Downtown21 Masterplan that was first introduced in 2009. The area is where, in the 1700s, the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation bought and sold goods with European traders.
Today, the area that now surrounds Square One Shopping Centre is being transformed.
“The Exchange District will be the gateway to downtown — a modern Distillery District, with walkable streets, shops, galleries, places where people want to gather,” said Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie.
The makeover has begun with office buildings and condominiums rising around amenities that include the city’s Living Arts Centre, Playdium, Celebration Square, a Sheridan College campus, the Central Library and YMCA, Square One and two transit hubs.
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Pedestrian-friendly streets with shops, eateries and public spaces hosting events are other integral elements.
“All the changes happening are very positive to the downtown,” said Crombie. “Forty-five years ago, that area of Hurontario Street was a farm with horses and cows. Many cities start with a town and build around it. We started with farmland.”
With essentially a blank slate, “we get to personalize and grow the downtown to our own vision,” added Crombie. “We want it to be the envy of the GTA and a model for other new cities to replicate and emulate.”
Developer Camrost Felcorp is creating the Exchange District mixed-use community. On three acres adjacent to Square One and steps from the Hurontario Light Rail Transit line projected to open in 2022, the neighbourhood will include four condo towers, a boutique hotel and extensive retail space along the future Exchange Street.
The first condo tower, the 60-storey EX1, sold out and Camrost has launched EX2, a 42-storey building with 395 suites.
Fully understanding the vision for the area, and setting shared goals, took considerable time, said Joseph Feldman, director of development at Camrost Felcorp.
“We are doing our thing, which is urban international development, and aligning it with the downtown strategy,” said Feldman. “We worked long and hard with the city to finesse the details.”
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The Exchange District will have a European esthetic with a raised, open square, or piazza, that Feldman describes as “the Spanish Steps of Mississauga” — in reference to the iconic stairway in Rome, Italy — for people to rest, shop, dine and meet.
“With the hotel and all of that, it will be very downtown in nature, very urban,” said Feldman. “The next push is to ensure the urban fabric is laid down properly, and we hope we are a catalyst for other development.”
EX2’s design (by IBI Group Architects), in metal and glass, will have offset symmetrical blocks rotated 90 degrees. All of the Exchange District towers are designed as a masculine counterpoint to the nearby and internationally acclaimed Absolute “Marilyn Monroe” Towers, a pair of curvy highrises designed by Ma Yansong of MAD Architects, of Beijing.
The double-height lobby of EX2 is proposed to include direct access to a grocery store, plus over 10,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor amenities topped by the 41st-floor Sky Restaurant.
Feldman sees the Exchange District becoming a focal point for Mississauga. “A tremendous effort is going into this and the city wants to make its downtown world-class.”
Crombie predicted that when Mississauga residents talk about “going downtown” in the near future, they’ll mean their own city centre. She said there will be 25 new buildings, with 12 million sq. ft. of office space, in the Exchange District within the next 10 years. Residents, workers and visitors will be served by Mississauga, GO transit and the LRT.
“We are trying to put Mississauga on the map with arts and culture and we are doing our best to create a livable city,” she said.
Tracy Hanes is a GTA-based writer and a freelance contributor for the Star. Reach her at email@example.com
EX2 at The Exchange District
Location: 151 City Centre Dr.
Developer: Camrost Felcorp
Architects: IBI Group (residential tower); BDP Architects (pedestrian spaces)
Suites: One bedroom, one-plus-den, two-bedroom and two-plus-den, from 420 to 1,500 square feet. Prices starting in the $400,000s
Amenities: Gym with circuit training and cardio area, plus a running track with 360-degree views; co-working space with conference rooms; resident wine storage; social room with catering kitchen, private dining room and access to outdoor dining space; multi-purpose games room and lounge; outdoor sundeck with garden patio and barbecues.
Contact: TheExchangeDistrict.com. Sales centre at 151 City Centre Dr., Suite 900, Mississauga