A weekend-long party was held for Yorkdale Shopping Centre’s sprawling $185-million addition, which is now home to 30 retailers and 800 parking spots.
I’ve been going to Yorkdale since before Justin Bieber was born. I mean, hands up if you’re an old-school devotee of the mall and remember, like, Eatons and Simpsons? As part of my (apparently-rare) born-in-Toronto breed, Yorkdale was basically the other place to be—by circumstance, not choice—on weekends as a teen in 2000. Sometimes, if it didn’t feel too far or if you wanted to go to the better Gap, you’d ride the rocket down to the Eaton Centre, which, admittedly, used to be the city’s top shopping option. But in early in the new millennium, malls mutated into flashy suburban hubs that not only kept trips downtown at bay, but gave downtowners reasons to spend money north of Bloor. Fairview Mall got a stop on the Sheppard subway extension (even if I don’t believe it’s any easier to get to), the 905 North got the mega-American Vaughan Mills (complete with bowling alley, go-karts and an H&M), and in two months, Sherway Gardens will commence its own $350-million expansion and renovation project.
Last Thursday, Yorkdale gathered a group of media and bloggers and lucky diehard loyalty members/disciples, brought in by hired private cars and subway shuttle buses, to unveil its newest retail wing—the mall’s second major expansion in less than a decade—with a party that lasted over five hours. It was all in celebration of the new 145,000-square-foot wing that officially opened to the public over the weekend, just in time for holiday shopping. There are also 800 new spots for parking (competition for parking has always turned its lots into hell on wheels), and 65,000 square feet of green rooftops. The atrium displays two installations by Toronto-based artist Ed Pien. A beautiful skylight, too. It’s all designed to mimic the hustle and bustle vibe of outdoor metropolis shopping, like London’s Kensington High Street* or even L.A.’s Rodeo Drive, maybe a little Fifth Avenue. At the ribbon-cutting rehearsal speech, general manager Anthony “Mr. Yorkdale” Casalanguida explained how this new era will push Yorkdale’s profits to the $1 billion mark in 2013, a first for Canadian shopping centres. And cue the indoor fireworks that crackled down the main hall. Shopping time officially starts now.
With the L-shaped expansion, which saw the demise of PJ’s Pets, comes 30 new stores to get lost in, a mix of current mall clients (a bigger, better Bluenotes) and new Canadian entries like Microsoft’s first brick and mortar store. My self-guided tour revealed the first Canadian outpost of British brand Ted Baker, with teacups hanging from the wall and boozy Pimm’s lemonade. More than a few people are losing their AMEXes over the opening of Tesla Motors. The electric car, I learned, is Car and Driver’s 2013 Car of the Year—and at something like $90,000, it’s pricey as fuck. “You’re paying for the technology and the name,” explains an auto-savant friend. “You’re not paying for a Prius.”
Later on, I got a hand massage at L’Occitane Canada, while a sales associate raved about the new men’s barber appointments, and how it’s the largest store they’ve ever opened outside of Paris. Then I stroll through what could possibly be the best-designed Club Monaco in the country. New York’s Kate Spade has landed here, too, in a store that looks like Katy Perry’s magic wigs exploded. There’s a Rolex boutique at Raffi Jewellers. Kate Hudson-rep’d Ann Taylor. The North Face. Hugo Boss. A Lacoste store. David’s Tea and Starbucks competing for taste-test sample domination. Holt Renfrew’s renovation is also a large part of the new wing, but that’s set to open in full next year, leading with a men’s shop. For now, they’ve plastered “Gucci”, “Prada”, and “Chanel” signs all over their monogram. All Saints is also headed this way. But for now you’ll have to make do with a new northern Anthropologie.
Now, I’ve seen people get excited about stuff, like the chance to sip free booze or catch a free DJ show at a new club, but when you get people riled up about fashion (especially with style bloggers as your social media turbo engine), these shoppers walking credit cards will start straight-up foaming at the mouth. Aside from the fact that most shops handed out first-day treats or promos, a lot of the excitement had to do with what happened over the weekend. The first 200 shoppers outside Microsoft on Friday got wristbands to see easy-rockers Train, and others could line up, again at Microsoft, for a chance to play Kinect with Wayne Gretzky. The Scotiabank branch got a visit from Leafs goalie James Reimer. The money spent on Train should have gone to a pop-up skating rink. (Sorry, Train.)
Though it’s surrounded by a region, especially to its northwest, that hasn’t traditionally been defined as “mega-affluent,” Yorkdale has quickly become the luxury destination that, even 15 years ago, its neighbouring populations probably couldn’t have sustained. With highways connecting it to the northern bursts of suburbia, Yorkdale is everything Vaughan Mills failed to become.
You’ve almost got to praise the powers, or the dollars, behind the organization for always succeeding to get shit done. Amid all the consumer bankruptcies and capitalist competition and aesthetic change, there has always been Yorkdale—connected by major highways, sitting there right between Toronto and the rest of Toronto—at the head of its pack. In June 2012, they opened Dine on 3, a new food pit with an outdoor terrace, bag hooks under tables, 1,000 additional seats, and three fully-licensed table service establishments. You can even make dining reservations through the free Yorkdale mobile app, on top of using it to see which parking lots have the most available spots (updated every 15 minutes). Plus, free Wi-Fi. I know: I’d never leave either if I didn’t care about my very humanity.
Let the Hunger Games begin.
CORRECTION, NOVEMBER 12, 2012: The original version of this article referenced London’s “High Street”; the actual name is Kensington High Street.