10 March 2023

Edmonton City Centre Mall, Edmonton, AB

 A dead mall

Why Edmonton was a question I was asked many times after letting people know that my first trip to Canada would be to the provincial capital of Alberta.  It wasn’t a query that I was too surprised to hear, especially considering how I had lived for the past decade a mere two hours away from Vancouver and had yet to visit the BC city.  But Edmonton always seemed to occupy a place higher up on the list of cities that I wanted to visit.  One obvious reason was to see the West Edmonton Mall.  But another was just because the city just seemed like a place that I’d like.  It was also quite beautiful in pictures.  And I was glad to find out that it was even better in person.

1- The downtown skyline.  2- The city just before dawn.  3- The Alberta Legislature Building.  4- The North Saskatchewan River basin.  5- Rogers Place, home of the NHL's Edmonton Oilers.  6- At the Oilers versus Bruins matchup.

Just beyond the bright lights of downtown’s Ice District, one could almost miss the Edmonton City Centre Mall if not paying attention.  What was once a hub of downtown activity today lays darkened in the shadows of the nearby Rogers Center and the Sky Residences.  The beige and grey monolithic exterior really didn’t do much to invite the average pedestrian in and it was hard to tell if the place was even open on my Sunday afternoon visit.  But a walk in through the doors off of 102 Avenue showed that, yes, it was still welcoming shoppers.  But just barely.

1- The Delta Hotel atop the mall.  2- The shuttered Hudson's Bay.  3- The mall pedestrian bridge over 101 Street.  4- The light rail station in front of the mall.  5- The eastern corner.  6- The mall from Churchill Square.

Inside it was bright and spacious, but not very lively.  There were a handful shoppers, but most people hanging out seemed to be part of the city’s homeless population looking for reprieve from the sub-zero temperatures outside.  Tenants included a few Canadian mainstays such as Dollarama, Shoppers Drug Mart and Sport Chek, but most of the spaces were gate down, darkened and empty.  The biggest vacancy was on the western end of the building where once sat what used to be the only full-line department store in the centre, an outlet of the venerable Canadian merchants Hudson’s Bay Company, which had been shuttered for several years before my visit.

Scenes from inside the western mall portion.

I do have to say, though, that the court immediately in front of the department store’s former entrance was quite impressive, in an eighties sort of way.  Rising above the mall’s three levels were another several tiers belonging to Delta Hotels by Marriott, which was still very much open for business.  Also on the western end were the Landmark Cinemas, which occupied most of the third level, and a few dining and entertainment establishments which weren’t open at the time, and I couldn’t decipher whether or not they were still open at all.

Edmonton City Centre Mall's eastern half.

Past a skywalk over 101 Street and the requisite Tim Horton’s shop was the eastern and original half of the mall.  This area wasn’t any better than the western portion and was missing crowds drawn in by the hotel and cinemas.  But despite the absence of crowds and a few police situations that I was an unfortunate witness to, the mall itself was very well kept, clean and maintained.  Who knows; maybe one day it can be recovered or redeveloped into something more in tune with the evolving neighborhood around it.

Edmonton City Centre Mall lease plan ca 2023.  See the full PDF version here.

Edmonton City Centre Mall came to be in 1974 as part of the Edmonton Centre development.  The Triple Five Corporation, developers of the West Edmonton Mall, then built the Eaton Centre in 1980 across 101 Street.  This vertical center opened with Eaton’s department store and the Hilton Hotel as anchors.  However, Eaton’s closed in 1999 and soon after the two competing centers were joined by the skybridge over 101 Street.  The mall enjoyed some success, but through the latter part of the 2010s to the present, Edmonton City Centre has been in decline.  This was punctuated by the closing of Hudson’s Bay in 2021.  And though the surrounding blocks still bring in plenty of life, it seems that Edmonton City Centre Mall may not have a place among them.

Edmonton City Centre Mall official website

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