Mississauga has a skyline!

Don’t be alarmed but Mississauga has developed a skyline! (I took this photo from my west-facing balcony this morning). What’s great is that it’s not just any skyline, but a distinctive skyline.

I don’t have much else to say, but thought my photo might be a good starting point to discuss the Toronto suburb’s desire to build a downtown-like community around Square One and City Hall.

38 comments

  1. Now if only Mississauga could develop a personality to go with that skyline…

  2. Rarely, do I pass through the 403 but when I do, I’m amazed as to how Mississauga’s skyline has expanded over the past 10 years. I can’t wait to see both absolute worlds completed. Comparing Mississauga to Toronto, I’d think Mississauga’s developing downtown isn’t like the conventional downtown with a financial district. I’d still see it as a suburb but now full of condos.

  3. BUT…. Mississauga isn’t designed for walkability.. as a consequence all these condos is only choking the downtown core with more cars… do you think on a cold day anyone from those condos wants to walk to Square one??? Downtown we walk anywhere even in the cold… and we have options like the TTC… more condos = more trouble for Mississauga

  4. Skyline there is, but I still find it surreal when driving down Hurontario from the north. The skyline looms up, but where are the people? None to be seen. Downtown Brampton has more humans than downtown Mississauga.

    Downtown Mississauga makes me think of a city of the cyberfuture when we’ve all been uploaded to nanoprocessors in the Oort belt. Which is a sinister future to me.

  5. A skyline? Yes. However, it doesn’t look distinctive at all to me. Make that into a silhouette and no one would recognize where it is.

  6. I work in Mississauga, but live in Cabbagetown. You can increase density all you want, but if you need a car to live a bourgeois life in an area (commute, shop, socialize…), the area will still be a suburban POS.

  7. … and that’s why ‘New Urbanism’ is a non-starter.

  8. i think it has to be remembered that mississauga, like all places, is in a state of transition.
    a vibrant and livable downtown is not going to happen overnight, and it certainly is not there right now.
    MCC is, in a word, inhuman.
    but that is not to say it isn’t heading in the right direction, or that it is hopeless; it’ll get there (i hope).

  9. Max is right. I lived right across from Mississauga city hall and walked around the area all the time. However, at any time of the day the place was like a ghost town. People drove everywhere and nothing has developed there. It doesn’t help that there is a giant shopping mall with a giant parking lot cutting off parts of the city centre along with a few box stores to the north.

    There is no other retail other than a few dentists offices and convenience stores and the lack of vital, _independent_ retailers continues the cold blandness and conformity of the place.

  10. Interesting recent development. Wide avenues + spot density + space for possible intense transit. A burgeoning perfect city? A mix of backyards and high-rise view and shopping malls? Appealing to all segments of society. The question is whether or not some type of light rail can be integrated into the wide boulevards without disrupting traffic flow. Also we need is some street presence – all those backyards + 30 feet of grass shoulders seen from those boulevards can certainly be transformed into something pedestrian – walking galleries + fitness routes + art installations + music venues? This will only work if we don’t take away from the car culture but embrace it as part of the ‘total’ solution. The walking culture only works in Canada 4 months of the year -businesses can’t survive without nearby parking, subway stations/transit hubs (all not some). We don’t need to see people to be vibrant, this isn’t europe nor do we want it to be. Underground shopping arcades, art, and galleries a la the Path is a made-in-canada solution. Happy nuclear families promenading down cafe-strewn boulevards and pic-nicking in frisbee-tossing parks is a 60s architecture fantasy. A bit more street art, some outdoor-ish music venues, some artist bohemian communities and a few skate parks. The ‘character’ of the city is typically brought out by 20- and 30-somethings, so a mixture of starbucks, queen west, roncessville, richmond&john, and the parkdale artist will need to be sprinkled liberally but not overwhelming a suburb community feeling. The amusing thing about people who disrespect mississauga is that it is a community that is actually financially viable unlike TO which is on the verge of financial meltdown year-after-year. The people that seem to be the most outspoken are those who contribute the least towards property taxes (i.e. no house, no car, no business ownership). As much as we would all like the world to be like Queen and Spadina, it is a teenage dream without substance. Mississauga in 20 years (without further financial hardship) will be the epitome of a well-rounded cosmopolitan desirable city. Prediction: top 25 world class cities 2030.

  11. *Interesting to see if anyone who lives in Missisauga(*and likes it!) leaves a comment here.

    I gotta agree with “Former” on this one. Everytime i drive(*not transit) thru there it’s “soul-less” to me. People aren’t on the streets, they’re in their cars. It’s utterly disgusting and sad.

    A good NFB film to watch on the subject of “suburbia” is Radiant City(*though the ending left me dissapointed)

    http://www.radiantcitymovie.com/trailer.php

    I’m not saying Toronto’s any better(than any city) but at least i’m within a “walking” distance of a grocery store! Arghh….

  12. You’re forgetting that this section of Mississauga is far from all there is to the city.

    Mississauga is the 6th largest city in Canada, bigger than Winnipeg or Vancouver. It’s a junior mega-city, made up of former cities, towns and villages.

    It contains many very walkable areas, such as Streetsville, Clarkson Village, Port Credit and Old Meadowvale Village. The newer (’70s) Meadowvale development was designed with miles of walking trails leading everywhere within the community, including a few man-made lakes.

    These are essentially suburbs to the “downtown” Mississauga that is pictured in the photo, and worth the visit some Sunday afternoon.

  13. Mississauga’s skyline really shines from the departures lounge at Terminal 1. I often wonder if people arriving/departing think THAT’s Toronto instead. “Honey, where’d the space needle go?”

    Still, Missy seem to be getting it part right (which is still a hell of a lot more than can be said for most North American suburbs). The added density is great, on-street parking has started, “place-making” initiatives around the City Hall have begun, LRT is coming, etc. However, the streets are too wide, there’s too few people on those streets (despite how many more move in) and all the retail in the area is chain stores that don’t allow for any unique personality. As it stands, it’s a giant, but good mall, surrounded by increasingly decent density with a few key public buildings. “Downtown” though isn’t really the word that comes to mind. I do think it’s important though for the GTA’s future that Mississauga does eventually get this right.

    Also, Mississauga may technically be the 6th largest city in Canada, but that doesn’t really mean anything as people think of it as a part of something else. For example, there’s massive cities in the U.S. that few ever think of (San Jose, CA?) as they are little more than a giant suburb. Mississuga needs to get this downtown right and developes some unique characteristics before it will ever be considered a stand-alone city in people’s minds.

  14. Diane: Being the 6th largest city doesn’t necessarily mean good things.

    I’ve been to the Missisauga downtown, which this post is about, and it’s not walkable. Suburbs “around” this downtown may be walkable(if you can call walking thru a neighbourhood there, walkable) but not the downtown itself. This city has been poorly thought out and the fact that it’s main source of attraction is Square One Mall and its City Hall, speaks volumes to what i mean.

  15. Jer: You brought some interesting points, but “We don’t need to see people to be vibrant?” isn’t one of them.

    In fact, spaces for communal activity and play are core issues to big cities. People want to get outside(even in our winters) and interelate with one another. Do you really think we want to be shoved into a PATH and see the world thru sky-lights?(*if even)

    And you’re right, i don’t own property or my own business, and i am complaining. And when i do decide to buy, it certainly won’t be in a place where the “car” is it’s main pedestrian. If that place is outside Toronto, so be it. I prefer character over sameness and how much space i have around my property.

  16. I suspect part of what makes that skyline appear impressive is the telephoto lens (from previous posts I seem to recall Matt’s apt is in Parkdale). That is an interesting visual trick that I have seen used to make traffic congestion look worse, or to make it look like a road corridor is littered with signs and billboards, or to make it look like a sidewalk is teeming with pedestrians.

    I grew up in Mississauga and would not be able to go back … maybe to Port Credit but it would be so close to all the crap I tried to get away from that I think even Port Credit would end up driving me nuts.

    I understand that when they were planning Mississauga back in the 70s, the choice for the city centre was either Port Credit, or an empty field up in the middle of nowhere (roughly the geographic centre of the “city”). Obviously they chose the latter. It would be interesting to consider how things would be different had they chosen the other route.

  17. This has been a great conversation and was exactly what I was hoping for. There is criticism of Mississauga (warranted) but none of the typical “let’s bash the suburbs.” So, thanks to all of you for being excellent commenters.

    To respond to a few of you…

    Anon wrote: A skyline? Yes. However, it doesn’t look distinctive at all to me. Make that into a silhouette and no one would recognize where it is.

    With the One Park Tower ( a Crysler Building-inspired condo), the Mississauga City Hall tower, the Menkes condos on Hurontario with the wavy roofs, and the soon-to-be built Marilyn Monroe building, there is no doubt that a silhouetted skyline could be identified by GTAers. Originally, I was going to post a sunset photo of the skyline with its silhouette and challenge readers to identify it but I thought I’d start a discussion instead.

    Sean Dixon wrote: What body of water is that?
    Its Humber Bay. I took the photo from Jameson and Lake Shore Blvd. looking due west. The bay allows me to claim I look out over Lake Ontario even though I am facing west.

    Brent wrote: I suspect part of what makes that skyline appear impressive is the telephoto lens (from previous posts I seem to recall Matt’s apt is in Parkdale). That is an interesting visual trick that I have seen used to make traffic congestion look worse, or to make it look like a road corridor is littered with signs and billboards, or to make it look like a sidewalk is teeming with pedestrians.

    You’re confusing telephoto with wide-angle, I think. Telephoto lens is much harder to make things look distorted while the wide-angle can do crazy illusions. This photo is exactly what I see and what most people would see from a distance. I only addressed the skyline issue from a far-off perspective since I think a more robust blog post would be in order if we wanted to discuss the experience of walking around the city centre. I didn’t have time for that today but we’ll certainly try to discuss these issues in Mississauga and other GTA burbs in greater detail in the months to come.

  18. I know what Brent means. As you say, lens distortion is more prominent with wide-angle lenses (e.g. a “fish-eye” effect), but there’s a different kind of illusion when taking a picture of something that’s very far away. It’s true whether you use a telephoto lens or just crop a picture taken with a very high-res camera.

    Looking at objects that are far away tends to compress the distances between them. For example, if you stand at Yonge and King, the Eaton Centre looks a lot shorter than it does if you stand at Yonge and Queen. Your brain instinctively deals with this. But if you took a photo from Yonge and King and zoomed or cropped out the context, there’s no point of reference to see that the distances are compressed.

    If you found a hilltop vantage point closer to downtown Mississauga (say, at a similar distance as Toronto Island is to downtown Toronto), you’d see a lot more gaps between buildings. Square One is, unfortunately, a massive 90-acre gap that will make it very hard to make the area walkable and vibrant.

  19. I remember there being mention earlier of plans to also develop Port Credit as well and I think that would be the kicker to doing it right. Port Credit’s got more character than the rest of ‘Sauga combined(With the exception of MAYBE Streetsville). ‘Sauga certainly has potential and when the BRT, LRTs(Hurontario and Dundas) get up and running and Port Credit gets developed further we’ll certainly be headed in the right direction.

  20. Telephoto compresses things and is often used to create a jam packed look like the mentioned congested traffic shot. Wide angles distorts in a number of ways, the most important being the bending of the image at the corners. (depending on the quality of a telephoto-especially the ones with a large focus range–you can also get some distortion in the frame corners). Side note; when I shoot and it starts to rain, switching to a wider lens can sometimes hide the raindrops so you can keep shooting without loosing your day.

  21. I think that the true downtown and heart of Mississauga has always been Cooksville (Hurontario/Dundas), with its modernist apartment towers and old school strip malls. You get a sense that people actually live there.

    Square one is dense and well developed, but lacks some of the crucial elements of a downtown, like the presence of people, walkability, rapid transit, a rail link, and so on. Having said that, I think that they have made a distinct skyline. You can catch a good glimpse of it when you exit the 410 and head southbound to Cawthra.

    Matt

  22. I grew up in Mississauga (lived there for 19 years) but now I live in Downtown Toronto. (I do work in Mississauga; however).
    In my opinion, Mississauga lacks character. One of my favourite things to do in Toronto is walk around and explore the different neighbourhoods. Unlike Toronto, I don’t feel like Missisauga is very walkable and is lacking a community feel. There may be a few exceptions (Port Credit has a sense of community) but overall, I will never live in Mississauga again.

  23. I’ve lived in Clarkson for the past 9 years. The first 6 years I was constraint to my neighbourhood. The transit is horrendous. As for the last 3 years I’m thanking the GO for allowing me to get to downtown TO. I can’t even stand walking around Clarkson. It’s just a mission and a half and there isn’t much to do. I usually rely on my bike if I can’t get my hands on my mom’s car; and I usually end up biking into downtown Oakville. In my opinion, Mississauga is only good for it’s waterfront trail. I think I would hate myself forever if I had to go to UTM.

  24. On a vaguelly related topic, I’m moderately optimistic about Markham’s attempts to intensify. There’s a bunch of condos that have popped up by the IBM Lab in reasonable proximity to each other. They have small shops on the first floor, and one of them is an excellent Chinese bakery that makes beautiful BBQ pork buns.:-)

  25. Jer:
    I agree with you on Mississauga becoming a well-rounded & desirable city, maybe not top 25, but very possibly top 50 in 2030. But that’s based on the steps residents & council are taking today to prioritize people over automobiles.

    Unfortunately, you really can’t have it both ways.
    A pedestrian-supportive city has a different form and priorities than a car-dependent one. One is a model where the public realm is an important component of life, and the other a model where the public realm is just that inconvenient space you shuttle through between home and work.

    The way you get fast, free-flowing traffic (at least temporarily) is to make wide, straight, many-laned streets with few stoplights, long blocks, and a bare minimum of detail to distract drivers.

    If you try to put a pedestrian in that environment they’ll be bored to tears. There’s nothing to see or do, the distances and scale are comically exaggerated for interpretability from a car, the noise from cars & trucks makes social interaction unpleasant, and, since so much of the population is cut off inside cars, there’s not even enough people in the space to provide for people-watching or bumping into acquaintances.
    Businesses in the downtowns of a lot of vibrant cities tend to do pretty well with little parking. In fact, looking at the North American experience, it would seem that increased surface parking = less economic success for local businesses.
    Unless you have a very high concentration of people, underground PATH systems tend to just disperse activity, reducing sociability and pleasantness. And outside of business hours they’re not exactly fun places to be, with the added bonus of requiring security guards because they don’t have the accessibility and free surveillance that public streets have.

    As far as climate goes, a year-round walking culture is quite doable, if we’re willing to try. Urban Canadians, and city-dwellers around the world, managed just fine for hundreds of years before the suburban explosion of the mid-20th century. Even in the middle of winter, there are people out on the streets in Toronto and Montreal. In places which provide amenities and reasonable amounts of space for pedestrians, e.g. Copenhagen, there are many more people out, all year-round.

    Most of your arguments for a car-supportive, “made-in-Canada solution”, future are the same arguments that many Danes made when pedestrianization began. Giving up on the car there was a success, and it can be here too. Take a look at what Jan Gehl has to say on the subject: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMgEsUbMHSQ

    As an aside, I found your statements about “A burgeoning perfect city? A mix of backyards and high-rise view and shopping malls? Appealing to all segments of society.” and “Happy nuclear families promenading down cafe-strewn boulevards and pic-nicking in frisbee-tossing parks is a 60s architecture fantasy.” a little turned-around. The first is a much better description of 60s architecural utopianism (see: St. Jamestown, South Parkdale, all of Toronto’s increasingly impoverished inner suburbs) than the latter, which sounds like a hopeful brochure for a new urbanist development.

  26. Mississauga is getting steadily better, but right now I think it is passing through an “uncanny valley” of urbanism. Like a robot that is creepily realistic, downtown Mississauga has many of the superficial elements of a mature city, but hasn’t got the human element quite right.

    My last visit to downtown Mississauga, it felt like an odd hybrid between a Disneyfied new urbanism and a massive power centre.

    I’m sure they’ll figure it out eventually. There’s nowhere to go but up.

  27. “I work in Mississauga, but live in Cabbagetown. You can increase density all you want, but if you need a car to live a bourgeois life in an area (commute, shop, socialize…), the area will still be a suburban POS.

    Comment by jamesmallon
    February 13, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

    … and that’s why ‘New Urbanism’ is a non-starter.

    Comment by jamesmallon
    February 13, 2009 @ 1:40 pm”

    James: I believe you’ve oversimplified the intent and practise of New Urbanism. Its not all about greenfield development in outlying areas. No New Urbanist would ever in their right mind claim Mississauga. Give the place time and we’ll see (maybe another 100 years or so). Not everything can happen at once.

    Much better local examples of New Urbanism would be the West Don Lands, East Bayfront and Lower Don Lands, all plans for Waterfront Toronto prepared by members of CNU (UDA, Koetter Kim, and Ken Greenberg with MVVA). All will have transit, all will be walkable, all will be complete neighbourhoods.

  28. John,

    Your comment “Businesses in the downtowns of a lot of vibrant cities tend to do pretty well with little parking. In fact, looking at the North American experience, it would seem that increased surface parking = less economic success for local businesses.” is misleading.

    The amount of parking is a proxy of demand with corresponding effects on pricing and conveince. Increasing demand and lessening conveince and will eventually make parking and driving prohibitive. It is not the decrease in parking but the reasons for it, increasing density( paticularly employment density) that have a larger impact. It is the demand that is the driving force. Reality, not policy, should be the driving force behind it.

  29. The older sections of Mississauga are good places to live, but instead of continuing the pedestrian development of the villages, they went to asphalt auto oriented development.
    Streetsville is a good and bad example of this. The good part of Streetsville are the store fronting on the street with second floor offices and residential.
    The bad is Streetsville Centre Plaza with is asphalt desert. It should have been developed as a European style town square where one can walk around. Instead, we have parking.

  30. I don’t know what Jer was thinking…

    “The walking culture only works in Canada 4 months of the year -businesses can’t survive without nearby parking, subway stations/transit hubs (all not some). We don’t need to see people to be vibrant, this isn’t europe nor do we want it to be.”

    Have you been to central Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver? These beacons of ‘Canadian civilization’ see heavy pedestrian traffic 12 months a year. Waling culture is hardly a European phenomenon, it is a phenomenon of humanity. It exists throughout the Americas, Asia, Africa, Australia…on every inhabited continent.

    Why wouldn’t we want more of the vibrancy we see in our Canadian cities? It’s quite beautiful and environmentally friendly. I really like Port Credit

    On another note, I’m glad to see that Mississauga will be getting some great condominiums in terms of architecture in the coming years. They will be a welcome break from the various ‘Disney’ towers built so far.

  31. Hopefully Mississauga gets some good rapid transit infrastructure in place to support this growing downtown area. I was looking at a Toronto transit map and it included some of Mississauga’s transit routes. This map showed that the Square One bus terminal has 19 different bus routes serving it. Next to Union station I read that Square One is the busiest transit hub in the GTA. I feel that all these supporting bus routes warrant some form of rapid transit system to help people get around better. The Skytrain in Vancouver isn’t as big as a subway is cheaper to build and it does run underground in downtown Vancouver. I think this type of technology might be very compatable to Mississauga’s population size and needs. Maybe this route could connect the bustling Square One transit hub to the Kipling subway station via Sherway Gardens. I imagine if infrastructure like this were in place a lot of cars could be removed from the QEW and Gardiner higways helping the movement of goods and services at the same time helping our reduce our smog days.

  32. I moved from the city center to port credit and it looks to me like most people commenting are not from mississauga and simply drive through it. I used to live in the downtown area and now im in port credit. Everything here is designed for walking and i always walk or ride my bike when i need something or want to look around at the many stores. Mississauga is the 6th largest city in Canada so there’s a lot more to it then just the skyline area. A lot of places and bars are open late into the night as well so we get a night crowd out and the streets are always flooded with people walking. Especially on nice days i look off my balcony and there’s people everywhere like downtown Toronto.

  33. Wow what a load of Mississauga bashing! From people who don’t even live there! This is really sad, I hear all over our country how bad they think Toronto is, the city AND the people and it is only getting worse.
    Now you have these people bashing Mississauga? Well it figures that Coors is running a billboard in B.C. that states their beer is “colder than the people in Toronto”.
    I was born in Toronto and appreciate it’s diversity and character however I have lived in Mississauga for 25 years, moved to Woodbridge for 7 and then when I got the chance moved back to Mississauga.
    I have worked and lived in many places in the GTA however nothing is better than Mississauga. When I hear people bash it I am surprised, especially when they tell me they live in places like Whitby, Scarborough, East York, Hamilton, and the like…these real armpits of our Province! A lot of Toronto is very nice but a lot is pretty scuzzy also. You would be hard pressed to find anywhere in Mississauga except Dundas and Hwy 10 that are even close.
    I had such a great time growing up here, it is a warm and wonderful place. It is really world class and is run that way. Name another city with a mayor and government like ours.
    Who cares that we drive around everywhere, if I want a small area to walk to a grocery store there are many to visit in Toronto. Maybe we don’t want that here? Maybe we want some space and open air.
    A person told me he didn’t liek Mississauga because it was all ‘concrete’. I asked where he had been and it was not even out or a square mile of where he worked there. He was from Ajax by the way. Ok buddy…Ajax is some hicktown that has nothing but the Hyde House? Oh wait that’s Acton, whatever like it matters, they still are all specks on the map.
    Sorry for sounding like I am just bashing back but I know how wonderful Mississauga is, and if you don’t like it the next time you are driving through? Just keep driving through and don’t stop…that is the way we like it.

  34. its great to see mississauga is developing so fast. the only thing that bothers me is the amount of old and ugly buildings in Mississauga downtown. they have started to build some nice ones but there are still alot of ugly ones ruining the look of the skyline.(i live in mississauga)

  35. what about parkside village and the absolute towers. There very unique looking buildings

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