Whether it’s the 24-hour Planet Fitness, the Food Basics grocery store or any of the other popular businesses inside Brampton’s humble Centennial Mall, the commercial hub of the neighbourhood just northeast of the city’s downtown core has been a Godsend to locals for decades.
But wave after wave of new residents arriving in the city have spelled the end of the ageing plaza. It will be demolished and redeveloped into a mixed-use residential/commercial space with thousands of new units to help accommodate the growing population.
Area residents have raised concerns over the lack of local services and infrastructure (from schools and hospital beds, to subsurface utilities and surrounding road space) needed to accommodate the thousands of new neighbours the ambitious project will bring.
A staff report following a public meeting in June, last year, where traffic and parking issues were raised, addressed concerns of local residents. A “Traffic Impact Study was prepared by Nextrans Consulting Engineers, dated December 2022, to assess the potential impact of traffic” caused by the proposed redevelopment of the mall. The study found there would be no significant delays at surrounding intersections, as long as traffic lights are recalibrated.
It’s unclear how the additional traffic from more than 2,700 new residential units would not create higher volumes on surrounding roads.
Regarding concerns around the development’s environmental impacts, City staff wrote the applicant “submitted a Sustainability Assessment with their proposal to provide an overview of the application’s sustainability performance.” However, it only achieved a final sustainability score of 45 points (76 or above is a gold score), and met the minimum ‘Bronze’ level. “The sustainability assessment will be further reviewed and verified at the site plan stage of development to ensure the City’s minimum requirements are met.”
The document also responds to concerns about school spaces for the thousands of new residents. While there are six schools within 800 metres of the site, the developer, Davpart, “will need to incorporate warning clauses in all offers of purchase and sale informing future residents that students from the development may be accommodated in temporary facilities or bussed to schools outside of the area.”
The document names five of those schools, however only two are 800 metres from the site or less, according to Google Maps. Current enrolment at these schools (Kingswood Drive Public School with 590 students, Gordon Graydon Senior Public School at 440, Madoc Drive Public School with 252, Central Peel Secondary’s 1,238 students and Agnes Taylor Public School with 432, according to their respective webpages) added to a sixth school, Nibi Emosaawdang Public School, which has 337 students, totals 3,289 students currently enrolled around the project area. The development promises 2,724 total residential units.
The public meeting report says Peel District School Board and Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, “have been circulated to provide comments on the development proposal application and have not objected to the proposed development.” It remains unclear how the two boards plan to accommodate the new students moving into the area, as part of the 113,000 new homes that Brampton is expected to bring online by 2031 under the provincial plan.
The warning required of the developer, to notify prospective buyers that students will have to be bussed elsewhere or might have to be accommodated in “temporary” learning spaces, does not include any details about where these students would be accepted, in a city whose schools are mostly at or over capacity.
The staff report did not address the lack of frontline healthcare infrastructure in Brampton, which currently has less than half the per capita number of hospital beds compared to the Ontario average. The PC government has yet to explain how its plan to create 1.5 million new homes in less than eight years will be supported by funding for new hospitals and schools, which are both badly needed in Brampton, one of Canada’s fastest growing cities, where a healthcare crisis due to the lack of infrastructure continues.
At a Planning and Development Committee meeting on September 25, Brampton Council approved the mall’s redevelopment through a multi-phased project.
The Staff Recommendation Report highlights how the redevelopment of Centennial Mall for “primarily residential development, as well as non-residential uses, including retail uses” will incorporate a proposed subdivision plan for the project.
“The proposed Official Plan Amendment (OPA) applies to the whole of the site, and will facilitate its redevelopment into a high-density complete community via phases,” the report reads. It highlights that the full development anticipated for the site plans to include “14 buildings ranging in height from 2 to 39-storeys, with 2,724 residential units and 5,446 square metres of non-residential/ retail space.”
Phase 1 involves plans to develop 4 buildings (6, 18, 26 and 39-storeys in height) with 1,182 residential units. It will also have 1,501 square metres of non-residential floor space and 848 parking spots. A phased approach will be used and the mall will remain operational until its demolition is required.
The proposed Zoning By-law Amendment (ZBA) only applies to Phase 1 of the proposal located at the northerly portion of the site and will accommodate “4 residential buildings ranging from 6 to 33 storeys in height with approximately 1,182 residential units and 1,501 square metres of non- residential uses.”
The report also notes the Region of Peel has identified insufficient sanitary sewer capacity to accommodate the Phase 1 part of the plan. “City and Regional staff are supportive of the use of a ‘Holding (H)’ symbol with the zoning amendment, whereby as-of-right land use permissions will not apply until appropriate arrangements are made to service Phase 1.”
At the planning meeting, Council received a correspondence dated May 31, 2022 from Thomas Kortko on behalf of the Board of Directors of Peel Condominium Corporation No. 125—members say their building and others in the immediate area will be directly impacted by the project—which raised the following concerns from the Board regarding the Centennial Mall Application to Amend the Official Plan and Zoning By-Law:
- “Density will be too high and does not fit with the overall area.
- New community increases potential for housing and related routine problems as experienced with the building at the southwest corner of Queen Street and Hansen Road South, Brampton.
- Community activity, pedestrian traffic and trespassing will be significantly higher due aforementioned density (2,500+ homes).
- Current community infrastructure i.e. roadways, walkways cannot support such an increase in residential units.
- Traffic flow will be much higher particularly at peak commute times.
- Construction activities will disturb peaceful enjoyment of the neighbourhood particularly due to extended periods with high levels of noise and dust.”
The correspondence also included quotes from individual members from the three condo buildings represented, with residents saying the area is not appropriate for the proposed density.
One member wrote, “[increased] traffic, years of construction to deal with, increased density for such a small area, complete change in neighborhood feel from low rise buildings to a high rise setting.” The individual also raised concerns “about losing some of the businesses in the [mall,] especially the grocery store, pharmacy and dollar store.”
One of the local condo residents brought up the issue of the water main system. “Another concern would be our water mains. We already have tons of issues. This new development would greatly impact its performance.”
Another resident said, “Pollution will increase within the community.” A neighbour revisited the issue of road congestion. “Traffic on Kennedy Road and Vodden [are] already busy without hundreds or thousands of new homeowners. We already have three busy [apartments] on that corner… Do we really need to be [overcrowding] another corner of a main road,” the resident said.
Much of the concern did not veer into NIMBYism, local residents were mostly asking how the coming population will be supported, while existing ones can be assured their service levels won’t suffer due to a lack of government funding. With thousands of new people moving in as part of the ambitious provincial targets, the question was repeatedly asked—how will everyone get what they need?
The location of the mall along a transit corridor, staff explained, was a key reason for the project. “The application proposes an infill development in an area suited for residential intensification due to its location in the Kennedy Major Transit Station Area,” the staff report highlights.
But once again, few details about infrastructure, including transit expansion to accommodate all the new residents, have been provided.
Currently, Centennial Mall features a number of businesses that serve the surrounding community, including a pharmacy and grocery store, as well as a gym, dollar store and other retail businesses. There are plans to have another grocery store as part of the new development, according to the City. The proposed development “includes a range of non-residential uses, such as retail, service commercial uses, and a grocery store to support complete communities,” the current Food Basics is required to be replaced with “a new supermarket or grocery store concurrent with, or prior to the completion of the final phase of development.”
“This will ensure that future residents, as well as existing residents, will have access to a new grocery store upon the completion of the final phase of the proposed development,” the staff report details. It does not say whether the new grocery store will be similar to the current Food Basics in terms of affordability.
It’s also clear if a popular Rexall pharmacy that area residents, particularly seniors and others with mobility issues rely on, will be replaced once the build-out is completed.
Another issue highlighted in the Public Meeting Results report is “the design of the proposed building” which “should be integrated into the existing residential community. The proposal does not align with the existing neighbourhood, will shadow adjacent residential properties, and doesn’t “fit” with the surrounding neighbourhood.”
Staff wrote in response that they “generally [agree] with the proposed building heights due to the site’s location in the Kennedy Major Transit Station Area. Major Transit Station Areas are strategic areas that are planned to accommodate transit-supportive densities and a significant proportion of the City’s residential intensification to meet the province’s housing target.” They also said a “Shadow Study was also provided by the applicant as a component of the Urban Design Brief to ensure that impacts related to shadowing are appropriately incorporated into the design of the building,” and that the study showed that “shadows will have a minimal impact on surrounding lower-scale residential neighbourhoods… .”
Regarding the lack of water and sewage infrastructure service, staff wrote “additional sanitary sewer infrastructure is required to be installed to service the proposed phase 1 of the development, prior to the issuance of building permits,” and that “a planning tool available through the Provincial Planning Act will be used (Section 34(5)) within the recommended zoning by-law amendment to ensure that no as of right land use permissions will be in place until the required servicing is available.”
Housing is desperately needed in Brampton and the City is working to meet its target of building 113,000 homes by 2031, under the PC plan. But in an illustration of the gaps inherent in the government’s poorly laid out plan—one that has already generated significant controversy and an ongoing scandal—the Region of Peel confirmed the project site does not have the necessary sanitary sewer capacity to accommodate even the first Phase of the redevelopment.
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By Hafsa Ahmed, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Oct 23, 2023 at 18:35