Monday, February 2, 2015

Mixed use development coming to London

Near the end of a discussion about a rapid transit development plan for London, the city’s planning chief John Fleming asked: “Why not us? Why can’t we have what other cities have?"

The London Free Press reporter, Randy Richmond, continued on the same tack, asking in his recent story, "Why can’t we be one of the cool cities?" Richmond openly wondered why we can have what Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and Ottawa have and London doesn't.

Why stop with the usual short list of similarly sized Ontario cities? Why not find inspiration not just from cities within the province but from cities outside the province, even outside the country? If we are going to dream, let's dream big.

Think of City Crossing in Luohu, Shenzhen, China with its dramatic mix of uses: retail, commercial and residential. City Crossing - RTKL. Done right, a mixed use development like this would give the London downtown some competition as a destination spot and this might be good. A richer, more vibrant city benefits everyone.

In Calgary, the site of the historical Dominion Bridge steel foundry is slated to be transformed into possibly one of the most vibrant mixed-use developments in the region. The site promises to be a dense, mixed-use district incorporating smart growth with sustainable strategies to create a walkable neighborhood. Dominion Bridge at Ramsay Exchange - RTKL

Makes one wonder what could be done with the former Galleria Mall in downtown London. Built for more than a 100 million it last traded hands for a fraction of its original value. If ugly, former industrial sites can be transformed what could be done with the former Galleria Mall?

Actually, it is half way to conversion today after changes including the name. Both former anchors, one an Eatons and the other a Hudson Bay, have been repurposed with the city's Central Library in the one.

Add an apartment tower, possibly condominiums, drop a grocery store into the mix and could the old luxury mall become a successful mixed use destination? 

If Calgary can do it with an old foundry, why can't London do it with an old mall?

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