The first plazaPOPS project has gone up in a Scarborough strip mall. (plazaPOPS photo)

Turning a few spaces in a strip mall parking lot into a human-friendly oasis is the vision of the plazaPOPS concept.

Led by U of G School of Environmental Design and Rural Development professors Karen Landman and Brendan Stewart, both in the landscape architecture program, the concept is becoming reality in an iconic suburban Toronto strip mall and is getting a lot of media attention.

Stewart and project co-lead Daniel Rotsztain, a landscape designer and artist, were on CBC Radio’s Fresh Air over the weekend to discuss the concept.

The idea was also explored by Global News Radio’s The Morning Show and by BlogTO and on

Prof. Brendan Stewart, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development

Stewart told Global News Radio that suburban strip malls were primarily designed for the car, but there are many who walk or bus to the malls and contribute to their vibrancy.

“Our project is really about just trying to create better pedestrian facilities and amenities, so that people can take a load off and relax, maybe read a book, and most importantly meet their neighbours,” Stewart said.

Prof. Karen Landman, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development

Wexford Heights Plaza has undergone a plazaPOPS upgrade, with an enclosed space featuring 360 native plants, some edible, as well as tables and benches. The design was chosen from entries in a landscape architecture design contest at U of G.

Stewart’s research focuses on heritage conservation planning and design, cultural landscape theory, design history, and participatory design practices.

Landman’s research seeks to find ways to make urban agriculture more acceptable by assessing how to design for green space in urban landscapes.