The construction of North America’s first South Asian themed mall costing $60 million, in Toronto, Canda, the largest development of its kind in the region, will begin next month.
“It will be like Gerrard Bazaar but on a much larger scale,” said David Lam, a seafood importer who had originally conceived a Chinese mall at the site by builders McNicoll and Markham but switched gears when the project did not take off.
This was because he saw a growing number of South Asians moving into the Area. South Asians form a large portion of immigrants to Canada with emigration from India alone accounting for 12 per cent.
‘‘For me, this is a prime location for South Asians. There are temples, mosques and other places of worship in the vicinity. Many houses are being bought by South Asians and their numbers are growing. I think there is a critical mass to make it work,’’ Lam said.
Modelled along the lines of the Pacific Mall, the 240,000-square-feet Sitara (The Star) will house 500 retail shops, restaurants, food court, a huge banquet and convention centre, a two-storey atrium for pop concerts, several patios and a 1,000-car park facility.
“Look at the history of the Chinese community and the growth of retail stores catering to their needs. The same is happening with South Asians now. There are some projections that by 2017, one out of every six Canadians will be of South Asian origin. I believe this is just the beginning of the growth of South Asian market and maybe it is good start for me to be there,“ he said.
Lam said the GTA has no indoor shopping plaza of this scale geared to South Asian shopping needs. Until a few years ago, the sole one-stop shop for all things South Asian was the Gerrard India Bazaar, on Gerrard Street East.
Raja Mahendran, Sitara’s head of marketing and one of its sales agents, is also involved with an upcoming project targeting the same clientele called GTA Square on Middlefield and Finch.
“South Asians do not have indoor malls,’’ he said. ‘‘There are strip plazas, but they are small. GTA Square is also targeting south Asians but it is on a smaller scale [40,000 square feet] and has only shops. I think in future this [indoor malls] is going to be the trend.”
Sitara will claim part of the building currently housing Lam’s Tai Foong International Ltd. with construction expected to take two years.