Enhancing Strip Mall Landscapes in Toronto's Inner Suburbs

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Rotsztain, Daniel
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University of Guelph

Strip malls are a common form of commercial architecture lining arterial roads in Toronto’s inner suburbs. Originally designed to accommodate the automobile, strip malls and the neighbourhoods surrounding them are increasingly home to low-income and new immigrant populations who have low rates of car ownership. With affordable rents, strip malls within walking and transit distance of these communities have become vibrant gathering places, exhibiting characteristics of Oldenburg’s “Third Place”. However, the landscapes adjacent to strip malls are underutilized, with few amenities for pedestrians, e.g., seating and shade. After recognizing their role as inner suburban Third Places, the aim of this research is to identify and evaluate programs to implement landscape enhancements for pedestrians at strip malls in Toronto. “Landscape enhancements” is defined based on interviews with strip mall patrons, business- and property-owners. Document analysis and interviews with key informants inform an evaluation of the applicability of existing streetscape improvement programs to strip mall landscapes while recommending a new program — plazaPOPS — to address their public-private nature. Results are synthesized into an easy-to-use guidebook that facilitates citizen-initiated strip mall landscape enhancement projects.

geographic inequality, retrofitting suburbia, spatial justice, urban design, tactical urbanism, community design