Oxford Properties Group and AIMCo have unveiled the largest mixed-use downtown development in Canadian history, the 130-acre Square One District in Mississauga.
The project is named after the existing 2.2-million-square-foot shopping centre, which will anchor the 18-million-square-foot development. Square One District is master-planned to include more than 18,000 residential units — more than half purpose-built rentals — and 37 towers.
“As one of the largest development projects in Canadian history, Square One District is unparalleled in its scale and ambition,“ said Eric Plesman, Oxford’s executive vice-president and head of North America, during an event at the shopping centre to announce the development. “The multi-billion-dollar investment’s goal is to create a true downtown for Mississauga.”
Square One District’s components
What today is comprised of parking lots and underutilized land will also include a transit mobility hub connected to the Hurontario light rail transit line (LRT), slated for completion in the fall of 2024. Additional components will include new office space, additional retail space, community buildings, parks and green spaces.
Plesman told RENX no major demolition is needed to make room for the new development.
“A lot of it will be improving existing lands and putting some parking below ground as we may need,” he said, noting the LRT and other transit should reduce the need for parking.
Bounded by Burnhamthorpe Road, Confederation Parkway, Highway 403 and City Centre Drive, Square One District is owned in a 50-50 partnership between Oxford and AIMCo. It’s planned as a multi-phase project.
Hariri Pontarini Architects is the master-plan architect.
Daniels a partner in housing towers
To deliver the first phase of housing, Oxford and AIMCo are partnering with The Daniels Corporation to construct a 36-storey high-rise with 402 rental apartments, and a 48-storey tower with 575 condominium suites at Rathburn Road and Confederation Parkway. They’ll encompass 840,000 square feet of residential space.
IBI Group is the architect, DTAH is the landscape architect and Mason Studio is overseeing interior design.
“Fifteen years ago we established our vision to develop a 23-acre master-planned community right here in the heart of Mississauga’s downtown core,” said Daniels executive vice-president Niall Haggart. “We knew then that we were creating a foundation of an urban neighbourhood that would grow to become the most desirable location in the city.
“With close to 4,000 residential units complete or under construction, Daniels has clearly been a dominant force in helping to bring Mississauga’s city centre to life.”
Residential buildings at Square One District
Condominiums at Square One District’s suite mix will range from 444-square-foot studios to 844-square-foot two-bedroom-plus-den units. No prices have been announced.
The condo will have approximately 8,400 square feet of retail at grade. Its amenities will include: a co-working zone; community urban gardening plots and a garden preparation studio; an indoor/outdoor fitness centre with a full-court gym; a lounge; media and dining studios; a catering kitchen; and an indoor/outdoor kids zone.
The purpose-built rental building suite mix will range from 408-square-foot studios to 1,121-square-foot, three-bedroom units.
Amenities will include a fitness centre; a co-working zone; community urban gardening plots and a garden preparation studio; a lounge; media and dining studios; and an indoor/outdoor kids zone.
Mississauga’s need for rental housing
“Population growth has already far exceeded the building of new housing, and particularly rental options,” said Plesman. “The rental apartment vacancy rate is exceptionally tight, at just 1.5 per cent.”
“We can no longer ignore the housing crisis sweeping the GTA,” said Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie. “This is an issue that requires governments and developers to work together.
“It’s my hope that in addressing the low vacancy rates, we can help stabilize rental rates right across the region. Affordability is the key to building a vibrant, diverse and world-class city.”
When asked if Square One District would include affordable rental housing, Plesman said Oxford is working with the City of Mississauga to achieve its objectives.
“We’re focused on ensuring that supply is addressed. As we address the supply issue that we have there, that will naturally provide more affordability for those that are in the marketplace.”
Strong reception expected
Sales for the first condominium tower will start in April and occupancy is scheduled for 2024. Marketing for the rental component will begin a year before anticipated occupancy.
Construction will start this summer and Plesman told RENX he believes the residences will be “very well-received by the market.” Two nearby condo developments sold out quicker than expected and rentals in the area have been “well-subscribed.”
An additional 5,000 residential units are expected to be launched over the next five to seven years.
The first phase of construction will create 3,500 jobs. Another 6,500 jobs will be created in the first five years. It’s estimated 35,000 jobs will be created over the life of the master plan.
The heart of Square One District will be The Strand, a pedestrian-friendly, connected civic space with a community park, restaurants, cafes and bars and the transit hub.
“Our goal is for The Strand to become the focal point for people living, working and visiting downtown Mississauga,” said Plesman. “It will bring all of the elements of Square One District together.”
Square One District’s office component
Office space will play an important role in turning Square One District into a true mixed-use project. The new office towers will be the first major commercial development in downtown Mississauga in a generation.
Oxford will begin marketing the first office tower to prospective tenants this spring.
While Plesman told RENX “the master plan contemplates three million square feet of office space,” the amount of office and retail space hasn’t yet been decided. Plesman said it will be determined by market conditions.
Mississauga’s future growth
Mississauga is now the sixth largest in Canada, with a population approaching 800,000. It’s expected to be home to 920,000 people and 565,000 jobs by 2041.
Mississauga’s downtown population of 30,000 is expected to double in that time, as are its number of buildings. More than 24,000 people now work downtown and additional office space will stimulate economic development and attract new business investment.
Crombie said construction is underway to upgrade infrastructure to prepare for developments like Square One District and the Hurontario LRT, the biggest infrastructure investment in Mississauga’s history.
“This is a multi-decade project, so my expectation is that there will be some infrastructure improvements over time,” Plesman told RENX. “But they’ve been very proactive in addressing what they see is the need, so I think we’re in good shape.”
Square One District’s owners and developers
Toronto-headquartered Oxford is owned by Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), the defined benefit pension plan for Ontario’s municipal employees. It manages approximately $60 billion of assets across the globe on behalf of its co-owners and investment partners.
Oxford’s portfolio encompasses office, retail, industrial, hotels and multifamily residential space that spans more than 100 million square feet in global gateway cities across four continents.
AIMCo is one of Canada’s largest and most diversified institutional investment managers, with more than $115 billion of assets under management. Its $20.2-billion real estate portfolio includes long-term, direct investments in office, retail, industrial and multi-unit residential properties in Canada’s major cities.
Daniels has built more than 30,000 homes and rental residences across the Greater Toronto Area over the past 35-plus years.