IGU Urban Commission, Canterbury, 2011


Jim Simmons

Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity, Ryerson University,Toronto, Canada


Power nodes: Downtowns in the periphey? 

Case study, Toronto, Canada


Power nodes are the clusters of big box retailers that have emerged like mushrooms in urban areas around the world over the last two decades. Big box stores can be constructed quickly, and developers attract them into shapeless malls called power centres. Over time the power centres coalesce into very large retail aggregations called power nodes that may also include malls and free standing big boxes. These nodes may house fifty or more big box stores and provide more than one million square feet (100,000m2) of floor area, but despite their size, they are often nameless and largely ignored by planners and consumers who think of them simply in terms of the individual stores.

CSCA has been tracking the expansion of these power nodes across Canada, and we find that they now account for one fifth of the retail space in the Toronto region and have attracted 40 per cent of the total growth in retail space over the last decade. The paper compares these nodes with other retail concentrations in the city, and discusses their role within the urban geography of the future. Are they the new downtowns, or simply unstructured aggregations of large retail outlets in peripheral locations?

Keywords: Toronto, retail, big box, power centre, power node.

Simmons.pdf  (619 Ko)

Simmons.ppt  (5908 Ko)

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