By Christa Yeung

Private strip malls and their parking lots fulfill critical functions as places for informal gathering and culturally specific goods and services for many racialized and immigrant communities in Toronto’s inner-suburbs. Given this reality, what possibilities are unlocked when we reimagine privately-owned parking lots as extensions of the public realm and as spaces for public life? This study examines and highlights the potential for parking lot activations in strip mall plazas through two emerging models: the PlazaPOPS program, and the CaféTO private property patio program. Through key informant interviews, policy and document analysis, and mapping, I ask: What factors enable and challenge these programs in transforming parking lots into spaces for public life? This study contributes to understanding the challenges that impede the growth of parking lot activations, with the hope that they can be used as a tool for cultural placemaking.

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