Eaton Centre Bridge

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The Eaton Centre Bridge in Toronto is artistically pleasing with the beams that appear to spiral in a non uniform manner.

The Eaton Centre Bridge in Toronto is artistically pleasing with the beams that appear to spiral in a non uniform manner. Another interesting feature is the curvature of the deck.

Toronto Eaton Centre

The Toronto Eaton Centre (corporately styled as the CF Toronto Eaton Centre since September 2015, and commonly referred to simply as the Eaton Centre) is a shopping mall and office complex in the downtown core of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is owned and managed by Cadillac Fairview (CF). It was named after the Eaton's department store chain that once anchored it before the chain became defunct in the late 1990s.

The Toronto Eaton Centre attracts more visitors than any of Toronto's tourist attractions because it sits on top of two subway stations in downtown Toronto and is close to Union station. It is North America's busiest shopping mall when one counts the daily commuters along with tourist traffic. The mall has over 230 stores and restaurants in 2014.

Location and access

The main portion of the Toronto Eaton Centre complex is bounded by Yonge Street on the east, Queen Street West on the south, Dundas Street West on the north, and to the west by James Street and Trinity Square. There are three office towers, while the main retail mall in the centre is organized around a long arcade, running parallel to Yonge Street. The mall's north street entrance (at Level 3) is one level higher than the south street entrance (at Level 2), given that the mall is built over the former Taddle Creek and the mall is thus on a gentle slope.

South of the main shopping arcade is the Hudson's Bay Queen Street complex, including the Simpson Tower offices and the flagship location of the Hudson's Bay department store chain. Hudson's Bay Queen Street is connected to the main retail mall (at Level 3) by a skywalk over Queen Street West and underground by Toronto's Path network and has been managed as part of the Eaton Centre since 2014 after being purchased by Cadillac Fairview. Hudson's Bay Queen Street itself is bounded by Yonge Street to the east, Queen Street West to the north, Richmond Street West to the south, and Bay Street to the west.

The Toronto Eaton Centre's interior passages also form part of the Path underground pedestrian network, and the centre is served by two subway stations: Dundas and Queen on Line 1 Yonge—University; Dundas station is connected to Level 1 (walkway under platform level) and Level 2 (platform level), while Queen station is connected to Level 1. The complex also contains four office buildings (at 20 Queen Street West, 250 Yonge Street, 1 Dundas Street West, and 401 Bay Street) and Toronto Metropolitan University's Ted Rogers School of Management. Additionally, the Toronto Eaton Centre is linked to a 17-storey Marriott hotel.


Early plans

Timothy Eaton founded a dry goods store on Yonge Street in the 19th century that revolutionized retailing in Canada and became the largest department store chain in the country. By the 20th century, the Eaton's chain owned most of the land bounded by Yonge, Queen, Bay, and Dundas streets, with the notable exceptions of Old City Hall and the Church of the Holy Trinity. The Eaton's land, once the site of Timothy Eaton's first store, was occupied by Eaton's large Main Store, the Eaton's Annex, and a number of related mail order and factory buildings. As the chain's warehouse and support operations were increasingly shifting to cheaper suburban locales in the 1960s, Eaton's wanted to make better use of its valuable downtown landholdings. In particular, the chain wanted to build a massive new flagship store to replace the aging Main Store at Yonge and Queen streets and the Eaton's College Street store a few blocks to the north.

In the mid-1960s, Eaton's announced plans for a massive office and shopping complex that would occupy several city blocks. Eaton's sought to demolish Toronto's Old City Hall (except for the clock tower and cenotaph) and the Church of the Holy Trinity. The plan required the closing of a number of small city streets within the block: Albert Street, Louisa Street, Terauley Street (not to be confused with the stretch of Bay Street north of Queen Street, also formerly known as Terauley Street), James Street, Albert Lane, Downey's Lane and Trinity Square. At one point, even the Old City Hall clock tower was to be demolished. After a fierce local debate over the fate of the city hall and church buildings, Eaton's put its plans on hiatus in 1967.

The Eaton Centre plans were resuscitated in 1971, although these plans allowed for the preservation of Old City Hall. Controversy erupted anew, however, as the congregation of the Church of the Holy Trinity exhibited an increased willingness to fight the demolition plans for its church. Eventually, the Eaton Centre plans were revised to save Old City Hall and the church and then revised further when Holy Trinity's parishioners successfully fought to ensure that the new complex would not block all sunlight to the church.

These amendments to the plans resulted in three significant changes to the proposed centre from the 1960s concept. First, the new Eaton's store was shifted north to Dundas Street, as the new store would be too large to be accommodated in its existing location on Queen Street (opposite its rival Simpson's, which is now the Hudson's Bay store) as a result of the preservation of Old City Hall. This resulted in the mall being constructed with Eaton's and Simpson's acting as anchors at either end. The second significant change was the reduction in the size of the office component so that the Eaton Centre project no longer represented an attempt to extend the City's financial district north of Queen Street, as the Eaton family had contemplated in the 1960s. Finally, the bulk of the centre was shifted east to the Yonge Street frontage, and the complex was designed so that it no longer had any frontage along Bay Street. Old City Hall and the church were thus saved, as was the Salvation Army headquarters building by virtue of its location between the two other preserved buildings (although the Salvation Army building was demolished in the late 1990s to make way for an Eaton Centre expansion and the Salvation Army's Canadian head offices moved to Leaside).


At the time of the centre's opening in 1977, the complex was marketed as "The Eaton Centre", before changing its name to "Toronto Eaton Centre" in the early 1990s to disambiguate from other Eaton Centres across Canada.

Despite the bankruptcy of the Eaton's department store chain in 1999 (and the closure of a short-lived Sears Canada-owned revival in 2002), the mall retained the Eaton Centre name, representing an ongoing tribute to Timothy Eaton and the small shop he once opened at this location. However, as Sears retained Eaton's trademarks and other intellectual property (IP), the name was used under licence until December 2016, when mall owner Cadillac Fairview acquired Eaton's IP outright.

In early 2014, mall management began an effort to enforce the usage of the full "Toronto Eaton Centre" name. However, at that time, exterior signage was inconsistent as to the centre's name, with signs facing Yonge—Dundas Square simply reading "Eaton Centre" while several others used the full name. Soon after, in September 2015, Cadillac Fairview announced it was rebranding all of its mall properties by adding the prefix "CF"; thus, the complex has subsequently been referred to as "CF Toronto Eaton Centre" by its owners. This branding was phased in on signage over the following year as renovations in the former Sears wing concluded.


Eaton partnered with the Cadillac Fairview development company and the Toronto-Dominion Bank in the construction of the Eaton Centre. The complex was designed by Eberhard Zeidler and Bregman + Hamann Architects as a multi-levelled, vaulted glass-ceiling galleria, modelled after the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy. At the time, the interior design of the Eaton Centre was considered revolutionary and influenced shopping centre architecture throughout North America.

The first phase, including the nine-storey, 1,000,000-square-foot (93,000 m2) Eaton's store, opened in 1977. The temporary wall at the south end was mirrored over its full height to give an impression of what the complete galleria would look like. The old Eaton's store at Yonge and Queen streets was then demolished and the south half of the complex opened in its place in 1979. The same year, the north end of the complex added a multiplex cinema, Cineplex, at the time the largest in the world with 18 screens.

Terauley Street, Louisa Street, Downey's Lane, and Albert Lane were closed and disappeared from the city street grid to make way for the new complex. Albert Street and James Street were preserved only to the extent of their frontage around Old City Hall (although at the request of the Church of the Holy Trinity, the city of Toronto required that pedestrians be able to cross through the mall where Albert Street once existed at all times, which is still possible. Trinity Square, however, lost its public access to Yonge Street and became a pedestrian-only square with access via Bay Street.

The exterior of the Eaton Centre store was designed in the style of the 1970s, intended at that time to be a statement of Eaton's dominance and its aspirations. Urban planners and designers have lamented this original exterior design. The complex was oriented inwards, with very few street-facing retail stores, windows, or even mall entrances to animate the exterior. Much of the Yonge Street façade, facing what was once one of Toronto's primary shopping thoroughfares, was dominated by nine storey parking garage. At the insistence of the Metro Toronto government, which had jurisdiction over major roads and wanted right-of-way to add an additional lane to Yonge Street, the complex was set back a considerable distance from Yonge Street, thus further weakening the centre's streetscape presence.

The office component of the complex was constructed over the years, as follows:

  • "One Dundas West" (29 storeys) in 1977, designed by B+H Architects and Zeidler Partnership Architects;
  • "Cadillac Fairview Tower" (36 storeys) in 1982, designed by Bregman + Hamann Architects, and Zeidler Partnership Architects;
  • "250 Yonge Street" (formerly Eaton Tower) (35 storeys) in 1992, designed by Zeidler Partnership Architects, and Crang & Boake; and
  • "Simpson Tower" (33 storeys) at 401 Bay Street, completed in 1969 and became part of the Toronto Eaton Centre upon Cadillac Fairview's acquisition of the Hudson's Bay block in 2014.

Early years

Despite the controversy and criticisms, the centre was an immediate success, spawning many different shopping centres across Canada bearing the same brand name as Eaton. The mall's profits were said to be so lucrative that it has often been credited with keeping the troubled Eaton's chain afloat for another two decades before it succumbed to bankruptcy in 1999. Today, the Eaton Centre is one of North America's top shopping destinations and is Toronto's most popular tourist attraction.

One of the most prominent sights in the shopping mall is the group of fiberglass Canada geese hanging from the glass ceiling. This group of sculptures, named Flight Stop, is the work of Canadian artist Michael Snow. It was also the subject of an important intellectual property court ruling. One year, the management of the centre decided to decorate the geese with red ribbons for Christmas, without consulting Snow. Snow sued, arguing that the ribbons made his naturalistic work "ridiculous" and harmed his reputation as an artist, and in Snow v Eaton Centre Ltd, the court ruled that even though Eaton Centre Limited owned the sculpture, the ribbons had infringed Snow's moral rights. The ribbons were ordered removed.

The 1990s and 2000s

When the Eaton's chain went bankrupt in 1999, many of its corporate assets were acquired by Sears Canada, which included the lease on the department store space at the north end of the mall, giving Sears a prime location in Toronto's downtown core for the first time. Sears Canada briefly ran the department store as part of an upscale Eatons mini-chain but by 2002 the store was rebranded to Sears. Sears Canada converted the uppermost four floors of the nine-storey department space to corporate offices, replacing their previous headquarters at 222 Jarvis Street, and the lowest floor was converted to mall retail space, but the resultant four-level department store was still Sears' largest in the world at about 817,850 square feet (75,981 m2). Shortly after Sears' acquisition of Eaton's, the Timothy Eaton statue was moved from the Dundas Street entrance to the Royal Ontario Museum.

In the early 2000s, owner Cadillac Fairview redesigned the mall's Yonge Street façade, bringing it closer to the street and making it more closely resemble an urban shopping district, with stores opening directly onto the street, and presenting a variety of façades to create the perception of an urban streetscape. Further redevelopments, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, added new retail space. The west side of the complex, opposite Albert Street, was expanded. The glass atrium in the northeast corner at the intersection of Yonge and Dundas streets was redesigned, with a number of former tenants—including a Toronto Police Service office—relocated or evicted, to make way for H&M's Canadian flagship store designed by Queen's Quay Architects International Inc.

One of the mall's two parking garages, the nine-storey Dundas Parkade on Dundas Street with its two spiral stack ramps and the multiplex cinema below it, was demolished in 2003. In the place of the garage and of a vacant development site on the southeast corner of Dundas and Bay streets, a new wing of the Toronto Eaton Centre was opened in 2006, containing Canadian Tire and Best Buy, with Toronto Metropolitan University's Faculty of Business and a new parking garage with 574 spaces on the upper levels. This work was done by Queen's Quay Architects International Inc. with Zeidler Partnership Architects.

In 2014, the retail complex occupies about 1,722,000 square feet (160,000 m2), making it the second-largest mall in Ontario (after Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga but ahead of Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto's north end).

2010 revitalization project

On June 18, 2010, Cadillac Fairview announced a two-year, CA$120 million renovation and revitalization plan for the mall. Upgrades include new flooring throughout, the redevelopment of the centre's two existing food courts, upgrades and expansions to washroom facilities, lighting improvements, new railings, new entry doors, and green initiatives.

In June 2010, a would-be shopper was filmed shouting at the locked doors of an entrance to the Eaton Centre, which was in the process of entering lockdown as the G20 Summit street protests loomed nearby, and was later uploaded to YouTube. The video quickly became an Internet meme but was removed by the original poster shortly thereafter. However, the video has been re-uploaded hundreds of times by other users.

Since 2010

Urban Eatery

As part of a $120 million renovation, the Eaton Centre replaced the aging food courts at each end of the mall with one larger new food court in the north, which opened in September 2011, and a relocated and expanded Richtree Market restaurant at the south end, which opened on September 9, 2013. However, Richtree Market permanently closed on March 9, 2020, amid the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto.

The new north food court, the Urban Eatery, features typical food court outlets, outlets of smaller Toronto-based chains, and international-style cuisine. There are 900 seats spread over more than 45,000 sq ft (4,200 m2) and 24 outlets within the Eatery. Some of the more notable restaurants include Chick-fil-A, KFC, McDonald's, Sbarro, Subway, and Tim Hortons.

Disposable packaging has been mostly replaced with cutlery and plastic cups and dishes; the area began with over 100,000 dishes and 20,000 cups. There are no garbage or recycling receptacles in the Urban Eatery; patrons bring their food trays to staffed collection stations, where items are sorted. A pulping machine makes 90 percent of the mall's food waste pulpable, and a solid waste compactor reduces the content of 50 bags of garbage into no more than two bags of pulp.

Canadian sporting goods retailer Sport Chek is the only non-food retailer located in the Urban Eatery.

Sears closure to present

It was announced on October 29, 2013, that Sears Canada would close its flagship location at the mall. On January 15, 2014, Nordstrom announced that it would be taking over some of the space vacated by Sears. The former lower level of Sears (part of Level 1 and part of Level 2 of the mall) was replaced with various retailers, which opened in fall 2015, while a three-floor Nordstrom opened in fall 2016 alongside Uniqlo, an expanded H&M, and a Samsung Store.

In January 2014, Hudson's Bay Company announced it would sell the Hudson's Bay Queen Street complex, including the Simpson Tower offices and Queen Street West location of its namesake department store, to Cadillac Fairview and lease the site for 25 years. Prior to this transaction the Hudson's Bay Queen Street complex had separate management/ownership and was not considered part of the Eaton Centre, nonetheless, it was connected to the Eaton Centre via a pedestrian bridge and underground Path. After the sale closed, the Queen Street complex department store space was renovated to accommodate the first Canadian location of Saks Fifth Avenue, a chain also owned by Hudson's Bay. The old pedestrian bridge over Queen Street linking the Eaton Centre and the Hudson's Bay store, which had been in service since the 1970s, was replaced by a new skywalk that opened in 2017.

Free Wi-Fi became available throughout the Eaton Centre in late 2014. Before then, free Wi-Fi was only available in larger restaurants, Indigo Books and Music, and the Apple Store. The Eaton Centre's free Wi-Fi requires a Facebook account, a Twitter account, or an e-mail address to access.

A small part of the northern end of the Toronto Eaton Centre's Level 3 was set aside for the official 2015 Pan American Games pop-up shop during June and July 2015 and during the 2015 Parapan American Games in August.

The Toronto Eaton Centre was closed in June 2020 amid both the COVID-19 pandemic and the George Floyd protests and reopened in July 2020. One of the stores above the Urban Eatery was replaced with additional public food court space to allow for social distancing, though that additional food court space closed again amid the second wave of the pandemic per provincial policy as Toronto underwent another COVID-19-related lockdown.

On the evening of September 20, 2022, a multi-vehicle fire occurred in the upper levels of the mall's parking garage and shoppers had to be evacuated.

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