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 2 Toronto-based retailers, Simpson's and Eaton's, agreed to open locations in a proposed northern Toronto shopping centre. 

Construction commenced on the fully-enclosed mall in May 1962, overseen by Webb & Knapp (Canada), Limited / Trizec. The 42 million dollar facility, designed by Seattle's John Graham, Junior and John Andrews, opened for business February 26, 1964. 

YORKDALE CENTRE consisted of a main retail level and basement. The 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 location 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 ladies' wear, Tip Top Tailors, Fairweather Ladies' Fashions an S.S. Kresge 5 & 10, Dominion supermarket, public auditorium and bowling alley.

In the basement level of the mall were the Famous Players-20th Century Theatres Yorkdale Theatres. The "dual auditorium" venue was accessed from a ground level lobby along the East Mall concourse. The first features were shown on February 24, 1964. The cinema was reconfigured as the Famous Players Yorkdale Three in 1980 and as the Yorkdale Six in December 1986. The venue was shuttered in June 1999. 

Shopping hubs in the YORKDALE trade area 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 3-phase renovation project 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, consisting of a 2-level (108,000 square foot) The Bay, was dedicated November 16, 1988. It was the chain's 79th location.

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 commenced revenue service on January 28, 1978. A transit station, known as Yorkdale, was physically connected with the mall as part of the 1986 renovation.

Anchor store nameplate changes began at YORKDALE CENTRE in September 1991, when the Simpson's store was rebranded as The Bay. The original location, which had 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 1964 completion, 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 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. 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, was 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, 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 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 enlarged their 285,000 square foot store into the adjoining court area. The store now enveloped 300,800 square feet.

The old Eaton's, now vacant, was gutted and sectioned into 21 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 3 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 now connected the Atrium with the mall's existing Southeast Wing. Its toney tenants included Billabong, Tommy Hilfiger, Sephora and Mango. The 62 million dollar reconfigured section was officially dedicated April 13, 2005. 

The mall 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 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 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). 

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 over 250 stores and services.

Meanwhile, Sears at YORKDALE CENTRE had been shuttered on February 24, 2014. Its 190,000 square feet were sectioned into smaller tenant spaces, with the largest being a 4-level (70,000 square foot) RH -Restoration Hardware- Home Furnishings & Decor. The store, which featured a garden cafe, welcomed its first customers 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