Shopping Centre | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Shopping Centre

A shopping centre is a group of retail and service establishments built and managed as a unit, having one or more major "anchor" tenants and its own large parking area. Two American prototypes were Market Square, Lake Forest, Ill (1916), and Country Club Plaza, Kansas City, Mo (1922).

Shopping Centre

A shopping centre is a group of retail and service establishments built and managed as a unit, having one or more major "anchor" tenants and its own large parking area. Two American prototypes were Market Square, Lake Forest, Ill (1916), and Country Club Plaza, Kansas City, Mo (1922). Shopping centres located at a distance from established urban centres developed rapidly after World War II as a response to the growth of suburbia. Planner Eugenio Giacomo Faludi promoted the concept in an influential 1949 article directed at Canadian architects.

Canada's first was Norgate Shopping Centre, Saint-Laurent, Qué (M.M. Kalman, 1949), arranged in an L-shaped plan, embracing a large parking lot, from which the stores were accessed. It was followed by the similar Dorval Shopping Centre, Dorval, Qué (Eliasoph and Bercowitz, with M.M. Kalman, 1950), and Park Royal Shopping Centre, West Vancouver, BC (C.B.K. Van Norman and J.C. Page, 1950). Other early shopping centres were Sunnybrook Plaza (1951) and York Mills (1952), both near Toronto. All were plain, no-frills buildings intended to sell merchandise, typically with a supermarket and department store as anchors.

In the next stage of design, the entrances turned away from the cars and towards an internal sheltered and landscaped walkway; eg, Don Mills Convenience Centre, Don Mills, Ont (John B. Parkin and Associates, 1955) and Rockland Shopping Centres, Town of Mount Royal, Qué (Ian Martin and Victor Prus, 1958).

Walkways were subsequently enclosed entirely to create a climate-controlled space. The first was Southdale Centre, Edina, Minn (Victor Gruen, 1954-56), modelled in part on European pedestrian arcades, such as the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele in Milan. An early Canadian example of an enclosed, all-weather facility was Yorkdale Shopping Centre, North York, Ont (John B. Parkin and Associates, 1960-64), the largest to that date in Canada (119 000 m2, with 2 department stores, a supermarket, and 90 shops); it was an early regional centre, located at the intersection of 2 superhighways. Multiple levels of shops increased density and reduced walking distances, as at Bayshore Shopping Centre, Nepean, Ont (Petroff and Jerulaski, 1973; enlarged from 2 to 3 storeys, 1986-87). Older shopping centres were continually upgraded and renamed to compete with newer ones.

The enclosed "mall" has become a centre of social activity, often containing recreational amenities, culminating in the mammoth WEST EDMONTON MALL (Maurice Sunderland Architecture Inc, 1981-86, 483 000 m2), with more than 800 stores and services, and 7 recreation and amusement parks - for more than two decades the largest in the world. The word "mall" was derived from "pall-mall," a game and the long grass field on which it was played.

Suburban and regional shopping centres have had a detrimental impact on downtown commercial areas. Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick all introduced regulatory legislation in the late 1970s. Canada, more than the US, maintained its commitment to its cities, resulting in the migration of the shopping centre from suburbia to the city core. Wellington Square, London, Ont (John Graham and Company, 1958-60), was claimed to be the first downtown shopping centre in North America.

Underground shopping centres were created beneath office tower complexes, eg, PLACE VILLE MARIE, Montréal (I.M. Pei with Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold, Michaud and Sise, 1958-66), and Pacific Centre, Vancouver (Victor Gruen and Associates, with McCarter, Nairne, and Partners, 1969-76); within towers, eg, Scotia Square, Halifax (Allward and Gouinlock, 1969); or as above-ground developments, eg, Midtown Plaza, Saskatoon (Gordon R. Arnott and Associates, 1969-70).

 The EATON CENTRE Toronto (Zeidler Partnership and Bregman and Hamann, 1976-79), has been particularly successful at integration into the city's infrastructure and revitalizing the inner city.

A recent trend has been the rehabilitation of groups of old buildings to become shopping centres, such as Market Square, Saint John, NB (Arcop Associates, with Mott, Myles, and Chatwin, 1980-83). Another is the simulation of urban design with separate buildings creating images of streets. In doing this, Sundial Square, Tsawwassen, BC (Cornerstone Architects, 1985), almost comes full circle to Lake Forest's Market Square of 1916.

Most shopping centre retail outlets are large department stores, supermarkets, chains and franchises familiar to the large national developers who build them and control the "tenant mix." A few developers have had immense shopping centre holdings; one was Trizec Corp (owned by Olympia & York Developments Ltd and Edper Investments), which, in the late 1980s, had 50 large shopping centres and owned an interest in 2 large American developers of shopping centres; and another was Oxford Development Groups Ltd, with some 100 Canadian shopping centres.

Since the early 1990s, multi-purpose shopping malls such as the West Edmonton Mall have faced increasing competition from more specialized power centres. Power centres - essentially open-air planned clusters of big-box retailers - constitute the largest single growth-area in recent Canadian retailing. Power centres offer a few very large stores, sometimes known as "category killers" because conventional retailers cannot compete with them. They are typically located along major arterial roads, away from traditional downtowns. Although cities and towns heatedly debate the pros and cons of power centres, their impact is undeniable. According to a 2005 study, 200 Canadian power centres comprised more than 1400 big-box retail outlets and more than 4000 stores, with floor areas exceeding 75 million square feet, or 20% of the floor space in conventional malls. These centres generated some 16% of non-automotive retail sales in Canada. Toronto's Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity at Ryerson University closely monitors retail trends; a study suggests that power centres may well have reached the saturation point in Canadian retailing. Despite such predictions, it seems safe to say that multi-purpose malls will continue to come under attack by the more specialized power centres: the hegemony of the multi-purpose mall appears to have been short-lived.

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