It is difficult to find a better example of the failure to site major development around transit infrastructure than the planned Osmington mall in Northwest Brampton. This vast project is intended to encompass a regional mall of over 1 million square feet, 300,000 square feet of office space, 2,000 residential units, and a 350-room hotel. 4,600 people will commute there for work every day. It will be designed on “lifestyle centre” principles, similar to the new Don Mills Centre, which are intended to create a suburban experience that is more pedestrian-friendly than the traditional mall in a sea of parking. Regional malls adjacent to TTC subway stations generate thousands of transit riders per day. It’s hard to imagine anything better suited to being located at a suburban transit hub.
Unfortunately, this immense new development will be located just beyond reasonable walking distance of the Georgetown GO corridor and the Mount Pleasant station. Instead, it will be built as suburban malls have always been: at an arterial intersection next to the planned Brampton North-South expressway, a bleak 1.2 km walk from the rail station. The planning report pays lip service to “transit-oriented development,” but the Osmington project will not be oriented to the rail corridor that should be the backbone of transit in the region. Meanwhile, Mount Pleasant station will be surrounded by quaint townhouses and strip mall retail that will generate at best a few dozen riders a day. While townhouses may create the old-timey village-around-a-station effect that feels like appropriate transit-oriented development, a large shopping centre, even with a suburban design, generates far more riders.
Of course the existing commuter-oriented, peak-only GO rail service wouldn’t be terribly useful for a shopping destination. But CityRail-style regional rail service would provide rapid transit service and this development could be one of its major anchor destinations.