The Shops at Aura could be Ryerson’s student study oasis

The Shops at Aura cafeteria could make for a prime study spot. (Lee North/Ryersonian Staff)

The Shops at Aura cafeteria could make for a prime study spot. (Lee North/Ryersonian Staff)

On the northwest corner of Yonge and Gerrard Streets resides The Shops at Aura, which BlogTO recently dubbed “Toronto’s worst mall.” And it seems fitting because it’s almost always empty.

Lack of student space is a perennial campus discussion, so this ghost town of a space could potentially be the relief Ryerson students are looking for.

This month the building’s condominium corporation announced it plans to sue the developer for misprepresentation. It said a future connection to the underground PATH network has yet to happen.

The stores below ground level suffer from a spooky, abandoned vibe, while the massive Bed Bath and Beyond steals all the attention in the upper levels. Looking over Yonge Street, the corporate store seems to thrive, benefiting from streetview and signage. But the mall below has no such luxury.

The lower-level mall noticeably contrasts the hustle and bustle of downtown Yonge Street. It’s rare to feel alone in a public place downtown, but that’s exactly how you feel in the 35,000-square-foot shopping centre.

The hallways appear empty in the underground mall. (Lee North/Ryersonian Staff)

An empty hallway in the underground mall. (Lee North/Ryersonian Staff)

The mall’s food court is situated amongst empty storefronts — nearly half the units are vacant.  But perhaps this could make for the perfect study space. There is room for about 100 students to sit and study, and the food court is perpetually quiet even at lunch, according to a shop manager.  

It’s not all doom and gloom down there, either. Kaiju, a restaurant specializing in Japanese curry, has a 4.9 star rating on Google and a 4.5 on Yelp, with an impressive number of reviews to further back it up. That’s food for thought.  

Another student attraction is the discount textbook store called Second Bind, which promises students up to 85 per cent off what they normally pay for their textbooks. The owner, Ershad Anari, said he gets around 20 customers in a day.

Even though the mall opened four years ago, it seems as if nobody knows about it.

If there’s one thing a university crying about lack of room should know about, it’s a 35,000-square-foot empty space around the corner. Ryerson students should take a journey into the hidden ghost town that is The Shops at Aura. It may prove to be useful, even just for a moment to escape the city.

This article was published in the print edition of the Ryersonian on Jan. 27, 2016.

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