Toronto Eaton Centre
Looking north in the atrium of the Toronto Eaton Centre
|Location||220 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Opening date||1977 (first phase)|
|Developer||Cadillac Fairview, TD Bank, Eaton's|
|No. of stores and services||235|
|No. of anchor tenants||3|
|Total retail floor area||1,722,000 sq. ft. / 160,000 square metres|
|No. of floors||5|
|Public transit access||Toronto subway: Dundas and Queen stations|
The Toronto Eaton Centre is a shopping mall and office complex in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada, named after the Eaton's department store chain that once anchored it but became defunct in the late 1990s. In terms of the number of visitors, the shopping mall is Toronto's top tourist attraction, with around one million visitors per week.
The Toronto Eaton Centre is bounded by Yonge Street on the east, Queen Street West on the south, Dundas Street West on the north, and to the west by James Street and Trinity Square. Its interior passages also form part of Toronto's PATH underground pedestrian network, and the centre is served by two Toronto subway stations: Dundas and Queen on Line 1 Yonge–University. The complex also contains three office buildings (at 20 Queen Street West, 250 Yonge Street and 1 Dundas Street West) and the Ryerson University Ted Rogers School of Management. Additionally, the Eaton Centre is linked to a 17-storey Marriott hotel, and to Canada's largest retail store, the flagship location of the Hudson's Bay department store chain.
Timothy Eaton founded a dry goods store on Yonge Street in the 19th century, and that small shop went on to revolutionize retailing in Canada, ultimately becoming the largest department store chain in the country. By the 20th century, the Eaton's chain owned most of the land bounded by Yonge, Queen, Bay and Dundas streets, with the notable exceptions of Old City Hall and the Church of the Holy Trinity. The Eaton's land, once the site of Timothy Eaton's first store, was occupied by Eaton's large Main Store, the Eaton's Annex and a number of related mail order and factory buildings. As the chain's warehouse and support operations were increasingly shifting to cheaper suburban locales in the 1960s, Eaton's wanted to make better use of its valuable downtown landholdings. In particular, the chain wanted to build a massive new flagship store to replace the aging Main Store at Yonge and Queen and the Eaton's College Street store a few blocks to the north.
In the mid-1960s, Eaton's announced plans for a massive office and shopping complex that would occupy several city blocks. Initial plans for the centre called for the demolition of both Old City Hall (except for the clock tower and cenotaph) and the Church of the Holy Trinity, as well as the closing of a number of small city streets within the above-noted block (Albert Street, Louisa Street, Terauley Street (not to be confused with the stretch of Bay Street north of Queen Street, also formerly known as Terauley Street), James Street, Albert Lane, Downey's Lane and Trinity Square). At one point, even the City Hall clock tower was slated for demolition. After a fierce local debate over the fate of the city hall and church buildings, Eaton's put its plans on hiatus in 1967.
The Eaton Centre plans were resuscitated in 1971, although these plans allowed for the preservation of Old City Hall. Controversy erupted anew, however, as the congregation of the Church of the Holy Trinity exhibited an increased willingness to fight the demolition plans for its church. Eventually, the Eaton Centre plans were revised to save both Old City Hall and the church, and then revised further when Holy Trinity's parishioners successfully fought to ensure that the new complex would not block all sunlight to the church.
These amendments to the plans resulted in three significant changes to the proposed centre from the initial 1960s concept. First, the new Eaton's store was shifted north to Dundas Street, as the new store would be too large to be accommodated in its traditional location on Queen Street (opposite its rival Simpson's) due to the preservation of City Hall. This resulted in the mall being constructed with Eaton's and Simpson's acting as anchors at either end. The second significant change was the reduction in the size of the office component, so that the Eaton Centre project no longer represented an attempt to extend the City's financial district north of Queen Street, as the Eaton family had originally contemplated in the 1960s. Finally, the bulk of the centre was shifted east to the Yonge Street frontage, and the complex was designed so that it no longer had any frontage along Bay Street. Old City Hall and the Church were thus saved, as was the Salvation Army headquarters building by virtue of its location between the two other preserved buildings (although the Salvation Army building was eventually demolished in the late 1990s to make way for an Eaton Centre expansion).
Eaton's partnered with the Cadillac Fairview development company and the Toronto-Dominion Bank in the construction of the Eaton Centre. The complex was designed by Eberhard Zeidler and Bregman + Hamann Architects as a multi-levelled, vaulted glass-ceiling galleria, modelled after the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy. At the time, the interior design of the Eaton Centre was considered revolutionary and influenced shopping centre architecture throughout North America.
The first phase, including the nine-storey, 1,000,000-square-foot (93,000 m2) Eaton's store, opened in 1977. The temporary wall at the south end was mirrored over its full height, to give an impression of what the complete galleria would look like. The old Eaton's store at Yonge and Queen was then demolished and the south half of the complex opened in its place in 1979. The same year, the north end of the complex added a multiplex cinema, Cineplex, at the time the largest in the world with 18 screens.
Terauley Street, Louisa Street, Downey's Lane and Albert Lane were closed and disappeared from the city street grid to make way for the new complex. Albert Street and James Street were preserved only to the extent of their frontage around Old City Hall (although at the request of the Church of the Holy Trinity, the city of Toronto required that pedestrians be able to cross through the mall where Albert Street once existed at all times, which is still possible. Trinity Square, however, lost its public access to Yonge Street, and became a pedestrian-only square with access via Bay Street.
Many urban planners and designers have lamented the original exterior design of the Eaton Centre. The complex was oriented inwards, with very few street-facing retail stores, windows or even mall entrances to animate the exterior. Much of the Yonge Street façade, facing what was once one of Toronto's primary shopping thoroughfares, was dominated by a parking garage. At the insistence of the Metro Toronto government, which had jurisdiction over major roads, the complex was set back from Yonge Street. The goal was to eventually add an additional lane to the street. As a result, the complex was set back a considerable distance from Yonge Street, thus further weakening the centre's streetscape presence.
The office component of the complex was constructed over the years, as follows:
- "One Dundas West" (29 storeys) in 1977, designed by B+H Architects and Zeidler Partnership Architects;
- "Cadillac Fairview Tower" (36 floors) in 1982, designed by Bregman + Hamann Architects, and Zeidler Partnership Architects; and
- "250 Yonge Street" (formerly Eaton Tower) (35 storeys) in 1992, designed by Zeidler Partnership Architects, and Crang & Boake.
The exterior of the Eaton Centre store was designed in the style of the 1970s, intended at that time to be a statement of Eaton's dominance and its future aspirations.
As of the early 2000s, the Eaton Centre's owners have redesigned the mall's Yonge Street façade, bringing it closer to the street and making it more closely resemble an urban shopping district, with stores opening directly onto the street, and presenting a variety of façades to create the perception of an urban streetscape.
Late 1990s and early 2000s
Further redevelopments, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, added new retail space. The west side of the complex, opposite Albert Street, was expanded. Its northeast corner at the intersection of Yonge and Dundas was redesigned, with a number of former tenants — including a Toronto Police Service office — relocated or evicted, to make way for H&M's Canadian flagship store designed by Queen's Quay Architects International Inc.
One of the mall's two parking garages, the nine-storey Dundas Parkade on Dundas Street with its two spiral stack ramps and the multiplex cinema below it, was demolished in 2003. In the place of the garage and of a vacant development site on the southeast corner of Dundas and Bay streets, a new wing of the Eaton Centre was opened in 2006, containing Canadian Tire and Best Buy, with Ryerson University's Faculty of Business and a new parking garage with 574 spaces on the upper levels. This work was done by Queen's Quay Architects International Inc. with Zeidler Partnership Architects.
The retail complex occupies about 1,722,000 square feet (160,000 m2), making it the largest mall in Ontario.
2010 revitalization project
On June 18, 2010, Cadillac Fairview announced a two-year, $120 million renovation and revitalization plan for the mall. Upgrades include new flooring throughout, the redevelopment of the Centre's two existing food courts, upgrades and expansions to washroom facilities, lighting improvements, new railings, new entry doors, and green initiatives.
The renovations have been completed in late 2013. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the Eaton Centre since late 2014. Before then, free Wi-Fi was only available in larger restaurants, Indigo Bookstore, and the Apple Store.
A small part of the northern end of Toronto Eaton Centre was set aside for the official 2015 Pan American Games pop-up shop during June and July 2015, as well as during the 2015 Parapan American Games in August.
Since the 1990s
Despite the controversy and criticisms, the centre was an immediate success, spawning many different shopping centres across Canada bearing the same brand name of Eaton. The mall's profits were said[who?] to be so lucrative that it has often[who?] been credited with keeping the troubled Eaton's chain afloat for another two decades before it finally succumbed to bankruptcy in 1999. Today, the Eaton Centre is one of North America's top shopping destinations, and is Toronto's most popular tourist attraction.
One of the most prominent sights in the shopping mall is the group of fibreglass Canada geese hanging from the ceiling. This sculpture, named Flight Stop, is the work of artist Michael Snow. It was also the subject of an important intellectual property court ruling. One year, the management of the centre decided to decorate the geese with red ribbons for Christmas, without consulting Snow. Snow sued, arguing that the ribbons made his naturalistic work "ridiculous" and harmed his reputation as an artist, and in Snow v Eaton Centre Ltd, the court ruled that even though the Centre owned the sculpture, the ribbons had infringed Snow's moral rights. The ribbons were ordered removed.
When the Eaton's chain went bankrupt in 1999, many of its corporate assets were acquired by Sears Canada, which included the lease on the department store space at the north end of the mall, giving Sears a prime location in Toronto's downtown core for the first time in its history. Sears Canada briefly ran the department store as part of an upscale "eatons" mini-chain but by 2002 they had changed it to their main brand Sears. Sears converted the uppermost two floors to corporate offices and the lowest floor was converted to mall space, but the resultant four-level department store was still Sears' largest in the world at about 817,850 square feet (75,981 m2). Shortly after Sears' acquisition of Eaton's, the Timothy Eaton statue was moved from the Dundas Street entrance to the Royal Ontario Museum. The complex retains the Eaton Centre name, representing an ongoing tribute to Timothy Eaton and the small shop he once opened at this location.
In June 2010, a would-be shopper was filmed shouting at the locked doors of an entrance to the Eaton Centre, which was in the process of entering lockdown as the G-20 Summit street protests loomed nearby. The video quickly became an Internet meme, but was removed by the original poster shortly thereafter. However, the video has been re-uploaded hundreds of times by other users.
It was announced on October 29, 2013, that Sears Canada would close their flagship location here at the mall. On January 15, 2014, Nordstrom announced that it will be taking over some of the space vacated by Sears. The store will be opened by fall 2016.
In addition, in January 2014, Cadillac Fairview announced that it would take over ownership and marketing of the Hudson's Bay location across Queen Street. The Hudson's Bay store, which was already connected to the Eaton Centre via a pedestrian walkway but was not part of the mall, will be renovated to share space with Saks Fifth Avenue.
As part of a $120 million renovation, the Eaton Centre replaced the aging food courts at each end of the mall with one larger new food court in the north, which opened in September 2011, and a relocated and expanded Richtree Market restaurant at the south end, which opened on September 9, 2013.
The new north food court, the Urban Eatery, features typical food court outlets (such as McDonald's, A&W, KFC, and Subway); outlets of smaller Toronto-based chains, such as vegan Urban Herbivore, Big Smoke Burger, and Liberty Noodle; and international-style cuisine including Szechuan Express (Chinese, including non-Szechwan (Sichuan) cuisine), Crêpe de Licious, Amaya Express (Asiatic Indian) and Thaï Express. There are 900 seats spread over more than 45,000 sq ft (4,200 m2), and 24 outlets within the Eatery.
Disposable packaging is mostly replaced with cutlery and plastic cups and dishes; the area began with over 100,000 dishes and 20,000 cups. There are no garbage receptacles in the Urban Eatery; patrons bring their food trays to staffed collection stations, where items are sorted. A pulping machine makes 90% of the mall's food waste pulpable, and a solid waste compactor reduces the content of 50 bags of garbage into no more than two bags of pulp.
On June 2, 2012, a shooting took place in the Urban Eatery food court, while the mall was heavily crowded with shoppers. Five people were shot; one of them, 24-year-old Ahmed Hassan, died at the scene, while another (Nixon Nirmalendran) died at a hospital on June 11. According to Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, Hassan may have had gang affiliations and he and perhaps one other victim were specifically targeted. Others were injured in the panic as people fled the area, including a 28-year-old pregnant woman who began undergoing labour but did not give birth.
Two days after the shooting, 23-year-old Christopher Husbands turned himself in to authorities, and was charged with first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder in connection with the attack. At the time of the shooting, he was under house arrest. Two months prior to the shooting, he had survived an attack in which he was stabbed more than twenty times by six gang rivals. Tourist Jessica Ghawi, who had left the food court minutes prior to the shooting, was killed a month later in a mass shooting at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado. In April 2015, Husbands was sentenced to 30 years-to-life imprisonment.
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- "Nordstrom to replace Sears at Eaton Centre". Toronto Star, January 15, 2014.
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- Toronto Eaton Centre shooting kills 1, injures 7, CBC, June 2, 2012.
- Man was targeted in deadly Eaton Centre shooting, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, June 3, 2012.
- Shooting at Toronto mall leaves one dead, seven injured, New York Post, June 2, 2012.
- Pagliaro, Jennifer; Taylor, Lesley Eaton Centre shooting: Gangs 'changed everything,' says suspects father, Toronto Star, June 4, 2012.
- Dark Knight Rises Shooting Victim Jessica Ghawi Remembered for Enthusiasm, Sense of Humor, People, July 20, 2012.
- Eaton Centre shooter Christopher Husbands sentenced to 30 years without parole, Toronto Star, April 16, 2015.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Toronto Eaton Centre.|
- Official website
- 360° exterior view
- CBC Archives - "Unveiling plans for the Eaton's Centre" (1966 audio clip)
- CBC Archives - "Jewel in the Crown" (1977 video clip)
- CBC Archives - "A controversial start to the Eaton Centre" (1978 video clip)