Founded in 1974, the City of Mississauga began as an amalgamation of various small towns including Port Credit, Streetsville, Malton and Cooksville. Over the years, it grew from “farmland and fruit trees” with an initial population of about 222,000 to the third largest city in Ontario and the sixth largest city in Canada. Presently, Mississauga’s focus is primarily geared toward the expansion of its urban planning efforts – especially in regards to transit development – to help bring more residents, jobs and foreign-direct investment opportunities to the city.
“We realize the need to build in our transit and transportation framework for the city,” says Mayor Bonnie Crombie. “So, we are undertaking that in a number of ways.” The first major transportation initiative will be the Hurontario LRT, which Crombie explains will serve as the “north-south spine of a regionally integrated transit network.” The Hurontario route will have 22 different stops in connection with the Port Credit and Cooksville GO stations, and will run north along Hurontario Street. Looping around the Mississauga city centre, it will help “unleash the potential” of the downtown core – aligning closely with Mississauga’s Downtown 21 Plan – and assist those travelling north toward Brampton.
“It will also allow seamless travel for the students getting to class at Sheridan College, or anyone wanting to enjoy a festival at our Celebration Square, take in a performance at our Living Arts Centre or shop for premium brands at Square One,” adds Crombie. “The LRT will be linked by two GO train stations, the Square One GO bus terminal – which is the second busiest transit hub in the GTA and in the GO network – and of course, our MiWay bus rapid transit system. As well, the Mississauga Transitway, which is our BRT system, will provide a more efficient and reliable east-west transit service on a dedicated corridor. It will run parallel to the 403 once fully completed.”
With construction of the transit system well underway, the completion of the Spectrum, Orbitor and Renforth Gateway stations have launched May 1st. Crombie explains that the completion of the Renforth Gateway station is especially crucial, as it is the city’s airport corporate centre. “Our airport corporate centre is one of our busiest employment districts, employing over 77,000 people,” she says. “From there, connections can be made with a direct bus to the Kipling subway station, and eventually, will connect into the Eglinton crosstown. When fully completed, that transit way will be 18 kilometres of track with 12 stations from Winston Churchill to Renforth Drive in the east. It will make the commute east-west much faster and easier, and once the density exists to provide for a business case, that will convert from an LRT to a BRT. All the routes in and around the GTA will funnel into that transit hub – whether it’s the Finch subway, Eglinton crosstown LRT or MiWay transit, Brampton transit routes, etcetera.”
Ultimately, the city’s main request of the federal and provincial governments is the implementation of an all-day two-way GO train service along the Milton line. This particular feature has already been announced for Kitchener-Waterloo and the Lakeshore area; however, Crombie feels that connecting the system diagonally through Mississauga into Toronto will help “strengthen the regional economy and lead to job-creating investments” and reduce gridlock seen as a result of the morning and evening commute. “What needs to be done to accomplish that is to move the freight train traffic off the southern CP line, move it to the north to co-locate with the CN traffic and open up the southern CP line for commuter traffic,” she says. “Regional express rail is really the future, and if we can open up that corridor, it would really be transformational for many communities along that line.”
In addition to its efforts to streamline transit and reduce unnecessary traffic, the City of Mississauga also strives to provide corporate growth within its city centre. The GTA is the second largest financial hub in North America, says Crombie, with Mississauga housing almost 800 financial organizations employing around 25,000 people. One of the key efforts is to build a complete city, where residents are able to live and work comfortably in their respective sectors. “We envision our downtown core as a place where we have mixed-use development – which includes condo development, yes, but also business and commercial development. So, office development is a priority, and we’ve actually named our downtown to be the Exchange District, which really will help attract new financial businesses.
We know that in the next two decades, Peel Region will accommodate 300,000 people coming to the region and 150,000 jobs – 60 percent of the jobs and residents coming right here to Mississauga. So, we have tremendous growth planned, and that growth will primarily allocate in the downtown area and along the north-south Hurontario corridor, because of the transit that will be available. We will exceed all the targets that have been placed for us by the Province of Ontario under the Places to Grow Act, and of course, none of this would have been possible without the LRT being built and the full funding for the LRT.”
Crombie explains the city is also very “sector-specific” when attracting new companies to break ground. Currently, Mississauga has 86,000 businesses operating within its borders, 73 of which are Fortune 500 companies and 1,400 of which are multinational. The main sectors within this group of businesses are life sciences and pharmaceutical companies – including the biotechnical and biopharmaceutical fields – advanced manufacturing companies, clean technology companies, food and beverage companies, and information and communications technology companies. The city also managed to attract a large pharmaceutical company that was initially looking to start business in the United States. “We have the benefit of location, being outside of Toronto, but very close to it; being 90 minutes to the border and having access to the U.S. market; having six 400-series highways, the airport, rail, etcetera. So, it’s all about our location, and a lot about our foreign direct investment attraction strategy.”
Another key project for the City of Mississauga, according to Crombie, is the redevelopment of the 75 acres of brownfield previously occupied by Imperial Oil. In partnership with Kilmer and Diamond Group, the well-known FRAM Building Group will be developing a combination of low and high-rise housing, along with “an education zone, a cultural zone and an innovation zone” on the released property. “There’ll be all kinds of different features that’ll make that new community livable; walkable,” says Crombie. “I took a look at some of the plans; they’re very exciting. I know that the community is very excited and has embraced the project, which doesn’t happen very often when you have a new development coming in. In today’s economy, people are downsizing from their larger Mississauga homes and looking for smaller places within their community, and this development will provide that opportunity for them. They’ll be able to walk to the Port Credit GO train station – which is a very important hub – or the Hurontario LRT from that community.”
Crombie adds that the ever-growing waterfront has certainly changed the landscape of the GTA. Where one use to just see the CN Tower across the water, they are also now able to see the two Marilyn Towers within the Mississauga city centre. Another development she believes will contribute to the changing landscape is the M City Condos, which are set to be built on the Rogers land south of city hall. Made possible by the LRT, the $1.5 billion investment will feature 10 towers on 10 acres, along with two acres of parkland. “They will mirror the iconic Marilyn Towers by their own very cutting-edge award-winning designed two towers as well,” she adds. “So, you’ll have the very whimsical Marilyn rounded towers, and the M City are also planning curved shifted towers; but they will be square rather than rounded – the Fred Astaire to the Ginger Rogers.”
Along with its various aesthetic developments, the City of Mississauga is also very dedicated to the inner workings of its municipal structure. As such, Crombie explains that there is a very strong philosophy
regarding giving back to the city by both its staff and its resident volunteers. She is currently a member of the Healthy City Stewardship Committee, which has been formed in collaboration with various school boards and larger service organizations, the United Way, Peel Regional Police, Trillium Health Partners, Sheridan College, UTM and Dixie Bloor Neighbourhood Centre. The committee comes together to discuss key issues within the city – such as youth unemployment and mental health – and how they can be addressed together. City hall has also participated in a variety of Thanksgiving food drives, as well as the Mayor’s Youth Employment Expo that helps area youth find jobs.
“There’s some very important organizations in our city that really help us bring charities and communities together to build that relationship, whether it’s the food bank drive and the food banks that exist or other organizations like the United Way that work strongly to really support those that are vulnerable in our community,” she adds. “Mississauga has a very bright, promising future, and we’re about to become a leading edge city. We were once again ranked top mid-sized city in North America for foreign direct investment. We’re very proud that we’re on the radar for foreign direct investment as a key hub in North America, not just Canada. I’m very proud that I’ve been given this opportunity to shape the next chapter in our growth after the visionary leadership that former mayor Hazel McCallion provided for 36 years.”