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Mississauga employment land review – Wanted: downtown offices

June 17, 2015
BY Edward LaRusic

Without a new policy direction the City Mississauga will run out of employment lands before 2041. To protect these lands for manufacturing and similar uses, staff is recommending a greater share of office growth be directed to mixed-use areas.

The city needs to accommodate an additional 104,000 jobs to meet its employment target of 552,000 jobs by 2041. To help it meet this target Mississauga staff is recommending the city direct 50 per cent of its growth in high-density office development, freestanding buildings over 20,000 sq. ft . to mixed-use areas outside of its employment lands.

Citywide policy planning manager Angela Dietrich told NRU that redirecting some office development will leave more space for industrial and logistics operations that can’t go elsewhere.

“Office is very important to our future growth, and we’ve been pretty successful at attracting office to our corporate centres [employment lands meant primarily for office development]. We’d like to see more of it in our mixed-use nodes like our downtown.”

Two consultants—Cushman & Wakefield and the Planning Partnership—were retained to undertake a review of the industrial, office and retail markets to determine the amount of land the city would need to achieve its employment target. They also were asked to review the city’s employment land policies and land use designations and to consider the potential for conversions in three employment areas.

The consultants concluded that Mississauga can achieve its 2041 employment target without using 133 ha. of its employment land if it directs 50 per cent of its office growth to mixed-use areas. Given this surplus, staff is recommending that conversion of lands in three employment areas— Lakeview, Dixie and the Northeast employment areas—be permitted to achieve strategic city objectives. (See sidebar.)

However, Cushman & Wakefield noted that getting major office development to locate downtown may be a challenge because of the high vacancy rate, which was nearly twice the GTA average in the last quarter of 2014. Dietrich said that after an office boom that ran from the 1970s into the early 1990s, there has been little office development in downtown Mississauga.

To encourage office development downtown, the city is preparing a community improvement plan with potential financial incentives. However, staff anticipates that the Hurontario LRT, once operational, will be a game changer that will drive new office investment.

“Office developers looking in Mississauga and the downtown still feel that they need to provide the same number of parking spaces as if they were in one of the employment areas. It’s just very expensive to do that,” Dietrich said. “We’re very hopeful with the LRT coming [in 2022] that we’ll be looking at a reduced parking standard and parking demand. In that case office [uses] begin to work in the downtown.”

Ward 11 councillor and planning and development committee chair George Carlson is less confident that the city will experience a resurgence of office development downtown.

“The demand for that standard cubicle, that just seems to be a thing of the past. [Former mayor Hazel McCallion] was always hoping for the best, the return of the office complexes.

I’m not seeing that that is the way the global economy is working,” Carlson said. “I’m not seeing business going back to that 1970’s model.”

He said that the new office reality is shared workspaces and people working from home, rather than the large office buildings of the past and is only “mildly enthusiastic” about the Hurontario LRT being able to spur new office development. He said council is going to have to wrestle with the numbers being proposed by the consultant for future office outside of its employment areas, to see if they’re realistic.