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Freed and Elad Canada’s vision for the future of the 12-acre site of the Galleria Mall in Toronto’s west end that the developers purchased last summer is coming into focus.

The first renderings from Hariri Pontarini Architects have been released, alongside a site plan plotting several mixed-use structures of indeterminate height, a rebuilt Wallace Emerson Community Centre and park and a reimagined streetscape.

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“We’re building from the ground up,” says David Pontarini, a founding partner at the architecture firm, during a community open house, the second so far, that the builders held at the aging mall this past weekend to present the renderings and receive feedback.

“We’re building really from an idea of what is the public realm here: how do we make it better, how do we integrate it with the park, how do we make the park better, [and] how do we introduce streets in a way that can create a lot of excitement and ties into the area,” he adds.

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New roadways would be created, including a main corridor that would diagonally slice through the site linking up Dufferin and Dupont.

Pontarini acknowledged how the vision for the streetscape is similar to that of the redesigned Queens Quay by the waterfront.

“Queens Quay is about the idea of complete streets that are about pedestrians, bikes, cars, being able to close them down, not using asphalt maybe using a different material like… we’re doing here,” he explains.

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A number of different exterior treatments for the buildings’ facades are depicted in the early Pontarini renderings, from glass and steel to classic red brick reminiscent of the old industrial warehouses that line Dupont Street.

“We’ve done a lot of research on the character of Dupont and we want to put something in here that’s authentic and reflects that character,” says Pontarini.

“So, we’re looking at brick, we’re looking at cor-ten steel, we’re looking at architectural exposed steel like the rail bridges that cross” Dupont,” he details. “It’s going to be sensitive to that character.”

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“By setting up a diagonal street grid the way we have, we’re creating these kind of flatiron buildings and these forms in the renderings all reflect that,” Pontarini says, standing before a display. “There are a lot of flatiron-like buildings, rounded corners, unique shapes — that’s what we’re exploring.”

Joe Svec, director at Galleria Developments, the corporation that Freed Developments and Elad have set up to carry out this joint project, provides some idea of what to expect from the possible commercial offerings at grade.

“The mall currently is 225,000 square feet. We are interested at minimum of putting back 225,000 square feet,” says Svec.

He says rather than just a few big-box stores, the idea is to blend throughout a variety of commercial unit sizes, from a few large enough to house, say, a grocery store, to a micro-retail space, to something in between.

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Working with retail consultants, Svec says Galleria Developments is considering what the public realm will look like 24 hours a day.

“We can’t put a bunch of banks there, ‘cause that’s going to be awful,” he says, likening it to Bay Street at 8 p.m. However, Svec adds, “We can propose things, but we also need people to buy the spaces.”

“In terms of restaurants, community gathering spaces, things that are interactive that are open late,” these are “a big key to the development,” he explains.

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Moving forward, Galleria Developments is aiming to have a formal application submitted to the City’s planning department in fall 2016, says Svec, noting there may be one more open house before then.

For more information about the future of the Galleria Mall site, Svec can be reached directly at jsvec@galleriadevelopments.com.

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