Traffic is the lifeblood of urban neighborhoods. In Toronto's Dundas Square area, the latest strategy to swell pedestrian traffic involves a new steel advertising tower that is 232 feet high. The tower's owner, The Ellman Cos. of Phoenix, hopes the structure will become a destination for tourists and residents, and draw throngs of people similar to what Piccadilly Circus does for London and Times Square does for New York City.

In addition, the city hopes the tower will contribute to the renewal of the square, which is home to Toronto Eaton Centre, Canada's top retail center, and the 1.1 million sq. ft. Atrium on Bay retail and office complex, atop which the tower sits. One of Dundas Square's corners-Yonge and Dundas Streets-is Toronto's busiest intersection, and sees pedestrian traffic of nearly 37 million per year.

Nonetheless, the Dundas area-particularly along Yonge Street-had seen a decline in the quality of retailers in the last five to ten years. Cadillac Fairview, the owner of Eaton Centre, and the Ellman Cos., owner of the Atrium on Bay, together approached the city with their vision of how to revitalize the area, one component of which was the tower construction.

"The tower is a reason for people to come to the area. It should attract a higher caliber of retailers, and then the value goes up for everyone," observes Alan High, vice president of Eller Media Co. Canada, an outdoor advertising company involved with selling advertising for the Atrium Tower. Eller Canada is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Eller Media Co., Phoenix.

"To make a commitment to do this is a bold move by city planners because traditional outdoor advertising - billboards - isn't held in high esteem," High adds. "Traditional signage isn't terribly flashy and here they wanted flashy - something that would cause people to stop and say, 'Wow!'" The wow factor is accomplished not only through the tower's size, but also the structure's ability to dazzle viewers with 20,000 sq. ft. of multimedia signage in neon, LED, 3-D, and motion.

The tower, framed in more than 300 tons of steel, is approximately 100 feet wide, 18 feet deep and is visible two miles away. Available signage includes sizes ranging from 15 feet by 20 feet up to 60 feet by 60 feet, as well as circles 60 feet in diameter. There's space for 15 to 20 advertisers and the owner expects that an average of 100,000 people will see the tower daily. The earliest advertisers have been Gap, General Motors and Toyota.

"With top designer name retailers, city events, and innovative outdoor advertising all coming together, this new Toronto icon will create excitement for local residents, shoppers and tourists," says Don Kile, senior vice president of the Ellman Cos.

"When you think of thriving world-class cities, their landmark squares are often one of the most popular tourist venues," Kile continues. "Now Toronto can be added to the list."