YORKDALE CENTRE 
Yorkdale Road and Dufferin Street
Township of North York (City of Toronto), Ontario


Canada's first mega mall, as well as its earliest 2-anchor retail complex, was built on an 80 acre tract, located 5.5 miles northwest of Toronto's Central Business District.


Development of YORKDALE CENTRE commenced, in earnest, in October 1958, when two Toronto-based retailers. Simpson's and Eaton's, agreed to open locations in a proposed northern Toronto shopping centre. Construction commenced on the enclosed mall project in May 1962, overseen by Webb & Knapp (Canada), Limited / Trizec.

The 42 million dollar merchandising mecca, designed by Seattle's John Graham, Junior, opened for business February 26, 1964. It was comprised of a 925,000 square foot main mall with a full service basement. There were ninety mallway-accessed stores and services, with an additional ten having only exterior entries.

The 4-level (362,900 square foot) Eaton's featured a unique "air curtain door" on its Lower Level entry. The store faced a dramatic, 3-storey high court area, with the Vista Restaurant overlooking it from a series of mushroom-shaped balconies.

Simpson's 4-level (285,000 square foot) YORKDALE location was envisaged by John B. Parkin Associates. This store also opened on a 3-storey high atrium, with a balcony level Court Restaurant.

Original stores and services in YORKDALE CENTRE included Holt-Renfrew, Pennington's, Birks, Jack Fraser, Plaza Drug, Reitman's, Tip Top Tailors, an S.S. Kresge 5 & 10, Dominion supermarket, public auditorium, bowling alley and twin-screen, Yorkdale Theatres.

Although often credited as being the first "dual cinema" complex in Canada, the Yorkdale Theatres had actually been preceded by a twin-plex located in The Shopping Promenade at Montreal's PLACE VILLE MARIE, which had opened in September 1962.

Commercial counterparts of YORKDALE CENTRE included FAIRVIEW MALL (1970) {6.1 miles northeast, in North York / Toronto}, SHERWAY GARDENS (1971) {8.9 miles southwest, in Etobicoke / Toronto}, SCARBOROUGH TOWN CENTRE (1973) {10 miles east, in Scarborough / Toronto} and PROMENADE CENTRE (1986) {5.3 miles northeast, in North York / Toronto}.

By the 1980s, YORKDALE was in need of a revamp in order to remain competitive. A three-phase renovation project commenced, which expanded the existing mall to the southwest and southeast.

The first stage, consisting of forty-three new stores, debuted in 1984. A second stage, dedicated in 1986, brought an additional thirty stores, a 3-screen expansion of the cinema (which had grown into a 3-plex in 1980) and 3-tiered Parkade garage. The final phase, consisting of a 2-level (108,000 square foot) The Bay, was dedicated November 16, 1988. It was the chain's seventy-ninth location.

Toronto's TTC subway system had extended rail rapid transit service to the vicinity of the mall with the St. George-to-Wilson / Spadina Expressway Line, which began revenue service January 28, 1978. The transit station, known as Yorkdale, was physically connected via underground walkway with the mall as part of the 1986 renovation.

Anchor store alterations at YORKDALE began in September 1991, when Simpson's stores in Ontario were rebranded as The Bay. The original YORKDALE location of The Bay, opened in 1988, was shuttered and sold to Sears Canada.

The Dominion supermarket, which had been rebranded as a New Dominion store in 1985, closed in the mid-1990s. It was demolished and replaced by a 1-level (55,000 square foot) Holt-Renfrew, which relocated from its (16,000 square foot) circa-1964 store. The new Holt-Renfrew began business August 14, 1997, accompanied by the 14-bay (second level) Food Court Garden.

At the time of its completion, YORKDALE CENTRE was within a political entity known as the Township of North York. This was inside one of six municipalities that had been formed, in 1954, as components of the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. As of January 1, 1998, these six political divisions were incorporated as an entity known as the City of Toronto.

The next remodeling of YORKDALE CENTRE cost 45 million dollars and added 165,000 square feet to the complex. A 10-screen, Famous Players Silver City Cinema was built at the north end of the Parkade garage. It showed its first features June 26, 1999.

Moreover, an expansion of the parking structure was built and a small section of stores, and entrance court, was built connecting the existing mall with the new megaplex. Soon after these additions, the mall changed hands. It was acquired, by a joint venture of Toronto-based Oxford Properties and GE Capital, in June 2000.

Meanwhile, Eaton's was going through a slow, agonizing demise. Bankrupt by the late '90s, the chain was acquired by Sears Canada, who shuttered all Eaton's stores in late 1999.

With no expertise in the realm of upscale retail, Sears attempted a turnaround of Eaton's, with eighteen "urban concept stores". These debuted in the autumn of 2000. This upmarket retail experiment had disastrous results, with all of the new-style Eaton's stores, including the YORKDALE location, being shuttered February 23, 2002.

Sears decided to close their store at YORKDALE in March 2002 and move it, temporarily, into the vacant Eaton's. The original Sears was expanded, into a 190,000 square foot operation, which re-opened October 16, 2003. At around the same time, The Bay expanded their 285,000 square foot store into the adjoining (15,800 square foot) court area. The store now enveloped 300,800 square feet.

The old Eaton's, now vacant, was gutted and sectioned into twenty-one store spaces on 2 levels. These included Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, Coach, Tristan America, Pistachio and Marciano. The remaining area was dissected by a 60 foot high, 300 foot long, glass-roofed Atrium. This fronted on three 2-level stores; a (25,800 square foot) H & M, (23,400 square foot) Old Navy and (21,000 square foot) Zara.

Moreover, a new concourse connected the Atrium with the mall's existing Southeast Wing. Its toney tenants included BCBG MaxAzria, Billabong, Tommy Hilfiger, Sephora and Mango.

The 62 million dollar reconfigured section was officially dedicated April 13, 2005. With its completion, YORKDALE CENTRE enveloped two hundred and sixty stores and services.

Amazingly enough, the renovations were not complete! Construction commenced in January 2006 on a 42 million dollar upgrade of the existing shopping centre, to make it consistent in appearance with areas in the 2005 renovation.

New soft seating was installed, washrooms redone, entrances reconfigured and an 8,000 square foot Moxie's Restaurant built on the mall's north-facing facade. These projects were completed in the autumn of 2007.

Enlargement of the mall continued into the 21st century. A 145,000 square foot addition, to be built on the southwest corner of the complex, was announced in January 2011. It was dedicated November 16, 2012 and brought twenty-seven new inline store spaces, an expansion of Holt-Renfrew (to over 120,000 square feet) and an eight hundred space subterranean parking deck. YORKDALE CENTRE now encompassed approximately 1,700,000 leasable square feet

As this project was being completed, the Food Court Garden was relocated into the third level of the old Eaton's store. The 18-bay Dine On 3 Food Collection was dedicated in June 2012.


Hudson's Bay Company announced a department store name change in March 2013. All "The Bay" locations would be known, henceforth, as Hudson's Bay (Francophone stores would officially become La Baie D'Hudson). Sears at YORKDALE CENTRE was shuttered February 24, 2014. Its was later announced that its 190,000 square feet would be sectioned into smaller tenant spaces, with one being a 4-level (69,000 square foot) Restoration Hardware.

A sixth expansion of YORKDALE CENTRE got underway in January 2014. Built on the site of the mall's demolished Parkade garage, the new East Wing featured an underground parking deck. The centerpiece of the project was a 3-level (188,000 square foot), Seattle-based Nordstrom, which opened for business in October 2016. 
The 331 million dollar project added thirty trendy "first-to-market" stores to the retail roster and expanded the GLA of the mall to approximately 1,998,000 square feet.

Sources:

"Yorkdale Centre" article on Wikipedia
The Montreal Gazette
The Toronto Star 

http://torontoist.com
City of Toronto Archives 

http://movie-theatre.org (Canadian Cinemas & Drive-Ins) www.yorkdale.com
http://urbantoronto.ca
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