The ramp leads you up from the street into a long, narrow passageway, lined by brick columns. This passageway towers a level below you and a level above, lined by shops; it’s crossed by wooden bridges and capped by a sinuous glass roof above. A breeze washes past as you consider an espresso or a pair of earrings. What is this place?

It doesn’t look quite like a shopping mall. And it’s not a neighbourhood. It is the giant new project dubbed The Well, now under construction in downtown Toronto, which is trying to redefine a sort of urban place – privately owned, open to the public, porous to the city around it and yet unmistakably different.