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


Canada's first mega mall was also the nation's first 2-anchor retail facility. It was built on an 80 acre tract, located 5.5 miles northwest of Toronto's Central Business District.
 

Development of YORKDALE CENTRE commenced in October 1958, when Toronto's Simpson's and Eaton's chains agreed to anchor a proposed Metropolitan Toronto shopping centre. Construction commenced in May 1962, under the auspices of Webb & Knapp (Canada), Limited / Trizec. 

The 42 million dollar retail facility, designed by Seattle's John Graham, Junior and Toronto's John Andrews, opened for business February 26, 1964. YORKDALE CENTRE was fully-enclosed and consisted of a main retail level and service basement. The original complex spanned approximately 1,000,000 leasable square feet and housed 100 stores and services. 

A 4-level (362,900 square foot) Eaton's featured a unique "air curtain door" on its Lower Level entry. The store faced on a 3-storey-high mall court, with the Vista Restaurant overlooking it from a series of mushroom-shaped balconies. Simpson's 4-level (285,000 square foot) YORKDALE store also opened on a 3-storey-high atrium, which featured the balcony level Court Restaurant.

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

The Famous Players-20th Century Theatres Yorkdale Theatres were situated in the basement level of the mall. The "dual auditorium" venue, accessed from a ground level lobby, opened along with the mall on February 26, 1964. The cinema was reconfigured as the Famous Players Yorkdale Three in 1980 and as the Yorkdale Six in December 1986. It was shuttered in June 1999. 

Shopping hubs in the YORKDALE trade area included DON MILLS CENTRE (1955) {4 miles east, in the Township of North York}, FAIRVIEW MALL (1970) {6.1 miles northeast, in the Township of North York}, SHERWAY GARDENS (1971) {8.9 miles southwest, in the Township of Etobicoke}, SCARBOROUGH TOWN CENTRE (1973) {10 miles east, in the Township of Scarborough} and PROMENADE CENTRE (1986) {5.3 miles northeast, also in the Township of North York}.

By the 1980s, YORKDALE was in need of a revamp in order to remain competitive. A 3-phase renovation commenced, which expanded the existing mall to the southeast and southwest.

The first stage, consisting of 43 new stores, debuted in 1984. A second stage, dedicated in 1986, brought an additional 30 stores and 3-tiered Parkade garage. The final phase, comprising a 2-level (108,000 square foot) The Bay, was dedicated November 16, 1988.

By this time, Toronto's TTC subway had extended rail rapid transit service to the vicinity of the mall, via the St. George-to-Wilson Spadina Expressway Line. This section had opened on January 28, 1978. A station stop, known as Yorkdale, was physically connected with the mall as part of the 1986 renovation.

Anchor nameplate changes began at YORKDALE CENTRE in September 1991, when the Simpson's store was rebranded as The Bay. The original Bay location was shuttered and sold to Sears Canada.

The Dominion supermarket closed in the mid-1990s and was demolished. It was replaced by a 1-level (55,000 square foot) Holt-Renfrew, which was a relocation of a circa-1964 mall store. The new Holt-Renfrew welcomed its first shoppers on August 14, 1997, accompanied by the dedication of the 14-bay Food Court Garden.

At the time of its completion in 1964, YORKDALE CENTRE was within a political entity known as the Township of North York. This was one of 13 towns, townships and villages that had formed the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto (or "Metro") in 1954. On January 1, 1998, the "Metro" was reincorporated as a jurisdiction known as the City of Toronto.

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

As part of the renovation, the parking structure was expanded and a small section of stores, and entrance court, were built that connected the existing mall with the new megaplex. Soon after these additions were finished, the mall changed hands. It was acquired, by a joint venture of Toronto-based Oxford Properties and GE Capital, in June of the year 2000.

Meanwhile, Eaton's was going through a slow and 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 a series of "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 YORKDALE store in March 2002 and move it, temporarily, into the vacant Eaton's. The original Sears was enlarged to 190,000 square feet and re-opened October 16, 2003. At around the same time, The Bay expanded into its adjoining court area. The store now encompassed 300,800 square feet.

The old Eaton's, now vacant, was gutted and sectioned into 21 stores on 2 levels. These included Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, Coach, Tristan America, Pistachio and Marciano. Remaining area was dissected by a 60-foot-high, 300-foot-long, glass-roofed Atrium. This fronted on 3 stores; a (25,800 square foot) H & M, (23,400 square foot) Old Navy and (21,000 square foot) Zara.

Moreover, a new concourse now connected the Atrium with the mall's existing Southeast Wing. Its tenants included Billabong, Tommy Hilfiger, Sephora and Mango. The reconfigured -62 million dollar- section was officially dedicated April 13, 2005. 

However, the mall renovation was not finished! Construction commenced in January 2006 on a 42 million dollar upgrade of the existing shopping centre; this 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 was built on the southwest corner of the complex and was dedicated November 16, 2012 . It added 27 inline stores, an expansion of Holt-Renfrew (to over 120,000 square feet) and an 800-space subterranean parking deck. 

YORKDALE CENTRE now encompassed approximately 1,700,000 leasable square feet. As the new Southwest Wing 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 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). 

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 October 21, 2016. 

The 331 million dollar East Wing project added 30 trendy "first-to-market" stores to the retail roster. The GLA of the mall was expanded to approximately 1,845,700 square feet, with the complex now housing over 250 stores and services.

Meanwhile, Sears at YORKDALE CENTRE had been shuttered on February 24, 2014. The vacant store was sectioned into smaller tenant spaces, with the largest being a 4-level (70,000 square foot) RH Home Furnishings & Decor. This store, which featured a garden cafe, opened for business on October 20, 2017.

Sources:

The Montreal Gazette
The Toronto Star 

http://torontoist.com
City of Toronto Archives 

http://movie-theatre.org / Mike Rivest
www.yorkdale.com
http://urbantoronto.ca
"Yorkdale Centre" article on Wikipedia