A series of renovations and additions in recent years have attracted new retailers and boosted sales at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. Now, the projects have also helped it win the TOBY Award for outstanding retail building at the recent National Building Owners and Managers Association Awards.
Yorkdale was recognized for its building standards, community impact, tenant relations, energy conservation and sustainability.
“Our team operates with a ton of heart and soul when it comes to our sustainable initiatives, our programs and our processes,” Yorkdale vice-president and general manager Claire Santamaria told RENX. “We really have made our environmental footprint and our sustainable initiatives a priority for our site.”
Environmental, sustainability initiatives
Many of the ideas and initiatives that have been launched to coincide with the renovations and additions were driven by frontline staff and supervisors. These include:
* installing a grey water system to collect rainwater and store it in large cisterns on site for irrigation;
* installing more than 600 solar panels on the roof;
* creating multiple green roof areas;
* keeping bees on the roof and harvesting the honey they produce;
* landscaping which includes plants that are good pollinators, to help with the bee program;
* putting a garden on a parking deck to grow food donated to local food banks;
* creating a program in the food court to remove garbage cans, replacing them with tray collection areas where consumer waste is sorted into organic and recycling streams;
* adding bicycle storage;
* installing charging stations for electric vehicles;
* putting a box on-site where new end-of-the-line clothing is collected and donated to charitable organizations;
* and other waste-reduction initiatives.
An on-site green team coordinates and oversees these initiatives, which have saved energy, water and costs while diverting waste from landfills.
“Awards like the TOBY are a recognition of what our team has done and certainly puts us on a good path and allows us to propel forward and continue that momentum,” said Santamaria. “There’s a lot more that we want to do.”
Community and tenant engagement
Yorkdale’s staff and tenants also pride themselves on their community engagement, which includes employment initiatives from retailers to help those who live in the area.
“If we’re good to the community, and it makes good sense for them, then it makes good business sense for us,” said Santamaria. “We really strive to be good community partners in any way that we can.”
Many international retailers have chosen to open their first Canadian locations at Yorkdale and the staff also extends a helping hand to them and becomes an important resource in welcoming them.
Santamaria said they become ambassadors and a key point of contact for everything — not just business-related items, but also helping with personal matters.
“They just need someone to help point them in the right direction and our team gets really involved with all of these opening teams — big or small. We just try to be good partners and really good supporters of their businesses, and we learn a ton along the way.”
Reasons for Yorkdale’s popularity
In addition to this welcoming approach, Santamaria believes there are other reasons why tenants want to be in Yorkdale.
The mall has a convenient location at 3401 Dufferin St., off of Allen Road near Highway 401, and adjacent to the Yorkdale subway station. Its wide corridors, high ceilings and abundance of natural light are welcoming to both shoppers and retailers.
There’s also Yorkdale’s legacy. With more than one million square feet of leasable space, it was Canada’s largest shopping centre and one of the biggest in the world when it opened in 1964.
While that’s no longer the case, subsequent additions have increased Yorkdale’s size to almost two million square feet and it has maintained a leadership position.
Yorkdale has been named the country’s most successful shopping centre for three years in a row by the Retail Council of Canada, which bases its rankings on sales per square foot for retail locations under 15,000 square feet in a mall.
Yorkdale’s sales are more than $1,900 per square foot this year and trending upward, according to Santamaria. The goal is to be above $2,000 per square foot by the end of 2020.
Future growth at Yorkdale
Yorkdale is co-owned by Oxford Properties and Alberta Investment Management Corporation and managed by Oxford. It offers more than 270 shops and services, employs more than 6,000 and its occupancy rate is in the high 90s.
Innisfree, Gucci, Fendi, Mujosh, Valentino, Escada Sport, Reformation, UNTUCKIt and PLUS have all opened at Yorkdale in the last six months. Dior will open later this fall, while Furla, By Chloe, Kit Kat, TAGHeuer, Hublot, Real Fruit Bubble Tea, Casper and Balenciaga will open this winter.
There are no near-term major expansions planned for Yorkdale. However, ownership is looking at a 20-year densification plan for the site that includes a hotel, residential, office and retail components.
While things are in the early planning stages, Santamaria said feedback from the City of Toronto and the community has been positive so far.
“The plan is very flexible in allowing us to be able to create an opportunity for what is required of the area and the community at the time.”