Mississauga planners are setting their sights on six city neighbourhoods.

A new study, “Reimagining the Mall,” aims to ensure that future intensification is done in a way that enhances those areas. Each of the areas is anchored by an existing shopping mall: Meadowvale Town Centre, Erin Mills Town Centre, South Common Centre, Sheridan Centre, Rockwood Mall and Westwood Square.

“It’s kind of a holistic look at the entire area and developing land use and design policies we want to see for the future,” city planner and project lead Jordan Lee, told The Review. “When we refer to intensification, it really just means increased density of population and job growth.

“The way we determine those areas is a kind of trickle-down approach from the province.”

Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement supports land use intensification by encouraging more optimal use of land, infrastructure, resources and services. In Mississauga, structure strategies within the municipal official plan determine where intensification should occur.

“This project is looking at how and to what extent we want them to intensify,” said Lee. “And the reality is, these sites have a lot of opportunity.”

“It’s not just the malls,” he adds. “We’re trying to determine what land use is appropriate.”

That includes figuring out how much density is appropriate, what businesses are lacking and what density will be required to support those businesses.

“For sure, the changing nature of retail is something we’ll also be looking at in this study,” said Lee. “We know demographics and spending habits are changing.”

To that end, the project team includes financial consultants, urbanMetrics, who will determine if the resulting vision will be financially feasible as well as provide an analysis of North American shopping trends and how they will affect the future.

“If it doesn’t make a business case for the mall and other property owners, they’re not going to do it,” said Lee. “So, we need to make sure any policies we develop will actually be financially feasible for them.”

The public is invited to get involved with the planning process, by taking part in a walking audit in the six targeted neighbourhoods. While the tour includes the malls, it also takes in the surrounding areas. Participants are asked about their challenges, in terms of walking; whether the mall is well connected to the vicinity; how they get to the mall; and what kind of businesses they would be willing to walk to.

“We want to understand what needs to be improved, what the challenges are for people and why they’re not walking more,” said Lee. “We want our future visions to be rooted in the principle of healthy and complete communities and, to do that, we have to make sure the areas are walkable.”

The audits, which began with Sheridan on Sept. 26, continue at South Common (Sept. 30); Meadowvale (Oct. 2); Rathwood-Applewood (Oct. 3); Central Erin Mills (Oct. 18) and Westwood (to be announced).

“In order to properly plan for the future, we have to know what stands there today,” said Lee. “These sites are the last large sites we can look at for how we want to envision their future.”

Also under consideration: the City of Mississauga has run out of greenfield space.

“The few we do have left are already going through the process of having land-use plans being developed,” said Lee.

According to the project timetable, a report will be presented at a planning and development committee meeting by summer 2018.

Log on to reimaginingthemall.ca for more information or to get involved.