Commercial Strips in the Greater Toronto Area
This report focuses on the character and extent of commercial strips in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and tracks the changing importance and role of commercial strips and provides analysis of their size, distribution and composition.
Commercial strips still exist but they tend not to be studied much these days. They are considered to be relics of a time prior to the coming of shopping centres, that is, before 1950, and subsequent power centres and e-commerce. But there they are, usually arrayed in an unplanned, free-standing fashion, intermittently bordering main streets and arterial roads in most cities – and are particularly evident in the largest metropolises. It is the purpose of this paper to delineate where and examine why they persist in the Greater Toronto Area. These turn out to be complex objectives because they have to be analyzed in the context of urban growth and change as well as technological change. Since 1950 the urbanized area of what is now the GTA has expanded from a city of 1.3m people to a metropolis of 6.2m, with most of the growth occurring in low density inner and outer suburban areas during the period of shopping centre/power centre dominance. Commercial strips can, therefore, be seen as legacies -- but are they more than this? Have they retained purpose and are they sites that cater for new consumer requirements?