Mall was northeast Toronto’s first regional shopping centre, writes Susan Goldenberg
North York’s Fairview Mall is celebrating its 50-year golden jubilee.
The two-level $20 million, then 100-store mall was swamped with shoppers and gawkers when it opened 50 years ago on August 5, 1970. There was a mammoth day-long traffic jam. Before 11 a.m. almost all 3,400 parking spaces were full and the traffic snarl jammed Sheppard Avenue, Don Mills Road and the Don Valley Parkway. It took up to half an hour for cars to get out.
The mall was developed by Fairview Corporation, the real estate company of the four children of Samuel Bronfman, founder of Seagram Company, in its heyday the world’s largest liquor distiller. Innovative escalators without steps linked floors. It was Toronto’s fourth fully-enclosed mall.
Fairview, with Hudson’s Bay and Simpsons as anchors, was northeast Toronto’s first regional shopping centre. There were plenty of potential customers. About 25,000 people lived in nearby apartment buildings and about 400,000 people in its broader reach, expected to be 742,000 by 1981, just nine years later. The mall was yet another symbol of North York’s transformation from sleepy township to bustling urban centre.
About 35 of the 46 acres were designated for parking, served by seven exits from a ring road around the edge. North York planning chief John Curtis told the Globe and Mail that the snarl was similar in scope to the one that greeted the opening of the Yorkdale Shopping Centre – 50 per cent bigger in area, with almost twice as many parking spaces – in 1964. Ironically, business and traffic were said to be light at Yorkdale on Fairview’s opening day but quickly rebounded.
Today Fairview has more than 160 stores. Simpsons was replaced by Sears; it closed when Sears Canada’s operations ceased and the premises are currently vacant.
On May 30, 1978 a false ceiling fell in The Bay around 3 p.m. onto the jewelry and cosmetic counters near the entrance. Dust, water and electrical sparks spread into the mall. People screamed, wept, froze. Fortunately, nobody died or was seriously injured. Water from a sprinkler system’s leaking pipes had weighed down the ceiling, causing its collapse.
Written by Susan Goldenberg.
Originally published on July 31, 2020, on toronto.com.