There’s nothing like a large development plan to get people riled up. So it was this week as Markham council chambers were packed to overflowing with concerned citizens voicing their opposition to a proposed development that would see Markville Mall become the centre of a new planned community with 4340 condo units.
The plan, first submitted to the City of Markham in July of this year, reflects a broader trend of larger suburban malls seeking to make the most of their property investments in the shadow of shrinking retail revenues. It was presented to the public for the first time this week at council by the urban planning team enlisted by property owner Cadillac Fairview (CF) in the first of a number of public consultations on the proposal that seeks to completely transform the almost 70 acre site to include up to 14 condominium towers from 6 to 45 stories, eventually becoming home to almost 9000 residents.
If that seems like a tight fit to you, you are not alone.
Dozens of disputants came to voice concerns ranging from adding traffic to already very crowded corridors around McCowan and Highway 7. The absence of new schools, parking, lack of public transit integration, impacts on neighbouring communities and how it will fit into the city’s secondary plan, were among the concerns raised. However, if residents were hoping to find answers to their concerns, they were disappointed with the aspirational presentation.
Pressed for details of the expected impact of perhaps an extra 4000+ cars (one for each new unit) on the roads, often at a standstill thanks to the current volume and the frequent trains crossing McCowan CF promised to look at that in the future. Presumably, that would also include a look at how a smaller, tighter 2-lane “ring road” within the property could possibly handle the increased traffic flow when the current road and entryways to the mall are packed now. Similarly, a promise to work with school boards to discuss if a school would be needed in the plan was promised later. A study on parking was also promised in future, with CF only saying they wanted to move most of the current 5160 parking spaces from surface-level spaces, which are often full, to covered and underground spaces, without confirming if they would be adding enough spaces for new residents.
A conversation with a number of attendees made it clear that the first public consultation left them less assured about the feasibility of the plan than when they went in, noting that clearly, Cadillac Fairview had thought plenty about how to maximise investment in the property, but little about anything else beforehand putting the proverbial ‘cart before the horse’. Having heard the presentation and read the proposal, it’s hard to disagree with the conclusion.
Not all of the plan was seen as unworkable to the assembled, with a number pointing out that some beautification and even densification might be a plus with some green and public space being added and a better streetscape welcomed as the current property is not a beauty to look at from any angle. It’s hard to disagree with that notion either.
Although the province has mandated municipalities to build ‘more homes faster’ and municipalities have agreed more homes are needed, even largely pro-development councillors seemed wary of the plan with Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti cautioning that this was only a consultation and that council was hear to listen and no decisions on the project would be made immediately.
It would seem that given the lack of foresight in the first draft of the proposed development that nothing will be finalized for quite a while.
Stay tuned for consultations, part two.