MEMORABLE MOMENTS IN ONTARIO RETAILING
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Turning Point: February 1964
1960 Ontario had six million people and 114 shopping centres.
1960 Fairview Mall, St. Catharines, opens. It only took four years for the suburban idea to reach Ontario, from the opening of Victor Gruen's first enclosed suburban shopping centre, Southdale Mall, Edina, MN. Enclosure proves to be very popular: Ontarians did not have to zip up their parkas nor mop their brows while shopping. In comparison, according to the traditional viewpoint, it took about 30 years from the first strip centre (Country Club Plaza, 1923, Kansas City or from the first one-landlord, interior courtyard of Highland Park, Dallas, 1931) for the strip mall concept to reach Ontario (Sunnybrook Plaza, Eglinton and Bayview, 1952). Other strip centres appear at Applewood Acres, Crang Plaza (later Sheridan Mall) and the Golden Mile. They were slow to arrive; but once Ontarians tried 'em, they liked 'em. Malls and plazas became dominant in one mercurial generation.
That’s the traditional story: but there’s something strange about it. Why would Canadians wait so long for a good mall? The demand was there: people needed goods, and automobiles were being used to access them. Why not provide some parking in front of the stores? While the Guinness Book of World Records identifies Baltimore and 1905 as the first North American mall, Metro Toronto Planning lists a number of malls in Toronto before Sunnybrook in 1952. There was of course St. Lawrence Market (1855), enclosed and accessible. The Royal York Hotel and Union Station, both opened in 1931, had enclosed shopping. There was an enclosed commercial court on lower Spadina in 1909.
(I think that Edward Boulton’s facility at Roland and Uplands in Baltimore should not count, since the off-street parking area was designed for horses and carriages. I would also not count Professor McCabe’s last published article (Plan Canada, Sept. 1979), which identifies the first Roman mall, complete with an area to park the chariots. The common area maintenance charges must have been a tad high every time Vesuvious erupted, and the continuous operations clauses must also have been difficult to enforce).
Between 1918 and 1922, Metro Toronto Planning reports seven shopping centres built earlier than Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza: five in York (Weston Road, Bathurst Street and John Street), one in Toronto (Bloor Street West) and one in the east (Old Kingston Road and the Military Trail). Each strip centre had parking and an average of nine stores. Bloor Street West and Keele Street, serving High Park, was redeveloped as four storey apartments. 1500 Bathurst Street (at St. Clair) was redeveloped as high-rise apartments with ground-floor retail, a continuous retail use. Weston Road just south of Eglinton, and Kingston and Military Trail, survive today, though they have been considerably re-developed. Perhaps none of the original buildings survive, but certainly suburban retail uses have persisted in the same locations longer than Kansas City.
Besides being enclosed and in a suburban area, Fairview Mall in St. Catharines is also the first “modern” shopping centre because it is the first to be located beside an expressway, The Queen Elizabeth Way (1931, dedicated in 1939). Compared to Southdown, however, Fairview was much smaller, and of only one floor.
1960 North America's first enclosed, climate-controlled downtown shopping centre opens in London, Wellington Square, 400,000 square feet developed by Campeau, anchored by a five level Eaton's and a Woolworths. Rooftop parking provided 330 spaces (click here for plan). The City considers building an expressway up the environmentally-sensitive Thames Valley to better serve these downtown merchants.
1960 Cedarbrae opens in Scarborough developed by Fairview Corporation. It is anchored two years later by Simpson's, its first venture outside any downtown (Toronto, Montreal, London, Halifax and Regina). John Bousfield is Planning Director of Scarborough. He laid out the wonderful arterial grid that keeps through traffic out of residential neighbourhoods. "You can imagine for Scarborough, that was the biggest deal, because that was Scarborough's first department store. I was the Planning Director then. We were so proud that somebody like Simpson's would come to Scarborough" (Report on Business, July 1992).
Cedarbrae, Fairview and the other malls are developed by Cadillac’s "ten percenters", who get expenses but no pay, "only" a ten percent equity share when the mall is operating.
Cedarbrae's original mortgage was $1.8 million. As no real estate company owns anything free and clear, it was re-mortgaged for a first time in 1983 for $14.8 million.
1960 Tower’s first department store opens at Lawrence and Midland. Each selling department is operated as a licensed concession. The pharmacist lessee was Kest Drugs Limited, which Towers purchases in 1968.
1960 The O’Keefe Centre opens in October with Julie Andrews, Richard Burton and Robert Goulet in Camelot. The O’Keefe Brewing Company was prohibited from showing its product (and people enjoying its product) on television. So it dreamed up this promotion.
1960 Crosstown Expressway is nixed. Passing through Rosedale on a railway embankment flaws a really useful alignment.
1960 Famous Players begins a five year experiment, pay television service in Etobicoke. With only one Toronto channel in 1960, CFTO, there is not much interest (CBLT begins in 1961).
1960 Other GTA centres include Newtonbrook, Riverdale, Richmond Heights, Cavenshore and Hopedale (Oakville). Other Ontario centres include Lincoln Plaza (Welland), Georgetown Market Place, Brampton Mall and the Aurora SC; all were open-concept, all were located on major arterials, none on expressways.
1960 Hudsons Bay Company buys Morgan's and moves into eastern Canadian markets.
1961 Shoppers City East opens in Ottawa and Eastview in Vanier, followed by Shoppers City West two years later. The former is the first mall to be re-boxed in the 1990s (click here). The GTA gets North Park, Royal York Plaza and Thorncrest Market Place surrounded by high rises. Barrie, London, Petawawa (near the military camp), St. Catharines, Sarnia and Waterloo get one mall apiece.
1961 Polsun family founds Dylex to take advantage of the new shopping centre opportunities. Remember that only one mall at this time was enclosed.
1961 Jane Jacobs writes her eloquent book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. She views the city, not as an abstract entity to be understood through mechanical and mathematical models, but as a living organism that evolves according to the principles of biological systems. Jacobs then illustrates how the life of the civic organism depends upon certain physical elements, including short blocks, wide and pleasant sidewalks, buildings oriented to the street ("eyes on the street"), and close-grained diversity.
On my first visit to New York to see the World’s Fair, I go to Hudson Street, Greenwich Village to see if I can make out from the clues in the book where she lived. Forty years later, Jane says I IDed the right block.
"A well-used city street is apt to be a safe street. A deserted city street is apt to be unsafe. But how does this work, really? And what makes a city street well used or shunned? ... A city street equipped to handle strangers, and to make a safety asset, in itself, out of the presence of strangers, as the streets of successful city neighbourhoods always do, must have three main qualities:
1. "First, there must be a clear demarcation between what is public space and what is private space. Public space and private spaces cannot ooze into each other as they do typically in suburban settings or in projects.
2. "Second, there must be eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street. The buildings on a street equipped to handle strangers and to insure the safety of both residents and strangers, must be oriented to the street. They cannot turn their back or blank sides on it and leave it blind.
3. "And third, the sidewalk must have users on it fairly continuously, both to add to the number of effective eyes on the street and to induce the people in buildings along the street to watch the sidewalks in sufficient numbers. Nobody enjoys sitting on a stoop or looking out a window at an empty street. ... Large numbers of people entertain themselves, off and on, by watching street activity. (page 35)
"The basic requisite for such surveillance is a substantial quantity of stores and other public places sprinkled along the sidewalks of a district; enterprises and public places that are used by evening and night must be among them especially. Stores, bars and restaurants, as the chief examples, work in several different and complex ways to abet sidewalk safety.
A. "First, they give people—both residents and strangers—concrete reasons for using the sidewalks on which the enterprises face.
B. "Second, they draw people along the sidewalks past places which have no attractions to public use in themselves ... Moreover, there should be many different kinds of enterprises, to give people reasons for crisscrossing paths.
C. "Third, storekeepers and other small businessmen are typically strong proponents of peace and order themselves; ... they are great street watchers and sidewalk guardians if present in sufficient numbers.
D. "Fourth, the activity generated by people on errands, or people aiming for food or drink, is itself an attraction to still other people. (pages 36-37).
Of course, you also need a density that will support walk-in stores, like Hudson Street in Greenwich Village, in southern Manhattan.
1961 Ontario’s first discount supermarket, Food City, opens in Scarborough, with lower everyday prices, reduced operating and promotion costs. Oshawa’s Towers-Food City combination would be welcomed by municipalities throughout the Province because it did not also include any small stores. It did not include any small stores because Towers was a collection of small stores (concessions) under one roof.
1962 The first new Ontario Bay store opens in Eglinton Town Square. It has the only Ontario escalator that never operates. The escalator was not ready for opening day, and then it was discovered that no customer wanted to take the trouble to park on the roof of the store, only at the front door. So the escalator was never used. It remained there until a renovation in the early 1990s. The escalator and the roof-top parking was part of the learning curve of these new mousetraps, the shopping centres.
1962 Shoppers World Danforth opens in an old aircraft factory, anchored by Eaton's in its second step outside the security of the downtown. It draws trade right along Kingston Road, penetrating into Ajax. It reigns supreme in the eastern metropolis until the opening of a better mousetrap, Scarborough Town Centre.
1962 The following cities also get one mall each during 1962: Belleville, Brantford, Mississauga, St. Catharines and Sault Ste. Marie (Churchill Plaza). Birchmount Plaza, Elaine Plaza and Guildwood Village open in Scarborough.
1962 Academic literature begins to register the haemorrhaging of the downtown retail economy, which is much more serious in the United States: Murphy (1962: Land Studies in Geography, Vol. 24, pp. 525-534), Ullman (1962: Regional Science Association, Papers and Proceedings, pp. 7-23), Vance and Dacey (1962: Proceedings of the IGU Symposium in Urban Geography, pp. 485-518), and Homer Hoyt (1964: Land Economics, Vol. 40, pp. 159-268). Howard Green's doctoral thesis at Harvard had asked the provocative question: What functions will remain downtown? He concluded Government, and its linked functions (particularly lawyers), plus newspapers, are the only activities that really need such centrality.
Dr. Green begins his career at the Ford Motor Company. He realizes that cars don't need to be stored in a central place like Manhattan. He rents a surplus aircraft carrier after the Korean conflict on which to store Ford’s new product. The only available birth is on the east river, beside the United Nations building. Mr. Ford personally nixes the idea: he doesn't want a Ford aircraft carrier pointing its armament at the UN.
1963 K-Mart opens in suburban London (Huron Heights Plaza, Oxford and Commissioners) one year after opening its first discount department store in Michigan. In 1962, all four of the largest U.S. general merchandisers had the same idea at exactly the same time: self-service for general merchandise. Within a three month period, Kresge's (K-Mart), Woolworth (Woolco), Dayton Hudson (Target) and Wal-Mart, all opened their prototypes. It only took a year to get the first of the new modules into Ontario in a more relaxed planning system. (The delay in accepting new ideas would lengthen: Price Club opened in 1976 in California, but it took 12 years for its first module to appear in Ontario).
Though a beautiful example of early space-age architecture, the Oxford Street store never gets any historical designation, or acknowledgement. (Nor do commercial icons on the roads, the huge green man on Eglinton East holding a muffler, the rocket ship beside rocket carwash, etc.)
1963 David Huff perfects the gravity model (Land Economics, vol 39). The Huff model incorporates the conceptual framework of Reilly and other gravity models, but is focused on the spatial behaviour of consumers. Shopping centre offerings are an expression of the centre's mass (its attractive force). Travel time is inversely related to a shopping centre's utility: the farther the customer lives from a centre, the less likely a trip will be made to that centre.
Gravity models prove very popular among supermarket chains: they can predict reasonably well the potential sales of a small generic store functioning among an urban competitive network. The Huff model implicitly states that consumer behaviour in an urban area is flexible and complex, and that shopping behaviour is governed by a whole range of choices in relation to retail size and inversely proportion to the friction of distance of getting there.
Gravity models appear to work particularly well for convenience and commodity applications: supermarkets, pharmacies and liquor (in the United States). Comparison and destination merchandise work less well.
All retail is gravity: the consumer will shop at the first intervening opportunity (that meets his/her expectations). In the 1960s, of course, any new mall met their expectations. Today, they will by-pass stores that don't meet their expectations, or bypass any 20,000 square foot supermarket, and so the gravity model doesn't work as well any more.
When you have competitive merchandise and two or more stores, gravity comes into play. If you can describe the process, in theory, you can model it, but to do it well, the data inputs start to become formidable. The early work on gravity models, however, didn't bother with any real world inputs.
1963 The Colonade opens on Bloor West as an example of what can be done with mixed use zoning: underground parking, street front stores, enclosed first floor retail (including the Jack and Jill café), two floors of offices, and then rental apartments.
1963 University subway line opens, 2.4 miles, $40 million.
1963 Ontario cities to get malls in 1963 include Brantford (Colborne Square), Brockville, Kingston, Kitchener (Forest Hill), Sault Ste. Marie (Pike Street Plaza), Port Arthur (Grandview) and Toronto (Bayview Village).
1964 The Highway Book Shop opens on the Trans-Canada near Cobalt. You could not image a more out-of-the-way location, in the "middle of no-where" (click here). It is voted Ontario's most popular bookstore by Star readers in 1981. Its collection of gently used books is outstanding, making it a true destination location.
1964 E.P. Taylor's Northern Dancer wins the Kentucky Derby.
1964 Petulia Clark records “Downtown” in Memphis on the American Label. Quite a swansong. The lights are much brighter there, you can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares.
The Gershwin estate sues for copyright violation. The case is lost, although Downtown is substantially similar to “I’ve Got Plenty of Nothing”, the riff in question is identical to that in “Ye Banks and Braes of Bonny Doon”, which was already in the public domain. Downtown wins, but ultimately Downtown loses.
1964 Yorkdale opens. My first introduction to Ontario retailing was in the pages of the London Times when it reported on February 26, the opening of Yorkdale Shopping Centre. "One of the biggest shopping centres in the world" was hailed by the international press around the world as a great innovation (click here for the 1964 opening photo I saw). Rents averaged $4 per square foot. Today, they’re some $150 per square foot.
Yorkdale is the first shopping centre I see after stepping off the plane from the old country (Europe didn't have anything like this). Day two in Toronto, I visit the marvel. Years later, it was a very special thrill to work for Yorkdale. I felt that an angel of fate has laid her hand on my head (click here for a picture in Yorkdale).
Day two in Toronto, I open a charge account at the Yorkdale Eaton's. Just stepped off the plane, and they give me credit. Start of a very slippery slope. Friends have said that I've got to establish a credit rating and this is the easiest way. I buy a package of envelopes to write home and discover Ontario has a sales tax.
Yorkdale has maintained its cracker-jack success; no other major centre has been able to compete within the first half million consumers nearest to the site. In 1964, as the only regional centre in the Province, it had a huge "novelty" trade area. As competitors were built, it contracted to a 20-mile radius. Now with its radius clauses, it maintains a stranglehold over a five-mile radius. And what a lucrative radius that is: North Toronto, south North York.
Because it was so new and unique, it took a while to workout its proper mix (it opened with seven furniture stores and a low-end discounter). Yorkdale becomes like Grand Central Station, a never-ending stream of people, a high-density entertainment for the masses. A typical customer will touch one hundred items in a shopping trip there.
Trizec negotiated 100,000 square feet of office at Yorkdale, which was later upped to 300,000 square feet, without any parking requirements.
1964 Other new Ontario malls overshadowed by the hoopla over Yorkdale include Lakeside (Burlington), Thames-Lea (beside the river in Chatham), Oakridges (London), Fairlawn (Ottawa), K-Mart Plaza (Sault Ste. Marie), Northtown (Welland) and Kendalwood Park (Whitby). The only other plaza to open in Metro is Burnhamthorpe Mall in Etobicoke.
1964 The little cuties born this year will be the last of the great cohort, the baby boom. As the Beatles appear on the Ed Sullivan show, this gigantic generation comes to an end.
1965 Scarborough Library Board establishes the first branch library in a shopping centre, in Eglinton Square, and after that enthusiastic response, puts them into Agincourt Mall (1967) and Morningside Mall (1968).
1965 I arrive in Ontario the day the Toronto City Hall opens (September 13, 1965). As I contemplate the first skyscrapers I have ever seen from the second floor of the College Street Y (I am thinking, "I wish they would start working"), the downtown sky erupts with fireworks to celebrate the new City Hall. Streetcars are still running on Bloor Street, the CIBC tower is the tallest downtown, the Saverin is on Bay, near the University of Toronto there is the Embassy, (with its ladies and escorts room; now a Harry Rosen), the Bay/Bloor Tavern (now Manulife), Place Pigale and the Myrna Bird. The Don Valley Parkway only reached Eglinton, and Highway No. 401 stopped at Kingston. The subsequent proliferation of expressways had two notable effects: (1) traffic by-passed the old cores (it no longer went by Highway No. 2 through Port Hope and Cobourg, for instance), and (2) retailers sought out the new traffic flows. Both effects have generated enormous urban literature: who won and who lost? The people (and the stores) who lost out with the new traffic flows were those who could not adapt.
The accessibility of all Ontario towns became so good that, when the shopping centres arrived during the 1960s and 1970s and then the big-boxes arrived in the 1980s and 1990s, the impacts were lessened, because the Province's residents were already adept at travelling huge distances in search of bargains. Unlike many of the mid-western states. Day three in Toronto I visit Don Mills Centre. "That's E.P. Taylor having a coke", someone says. "Who?", says I.
1965 Peanut Plaza opens in North York surrounded by high density apartments. Other Ontario malls include Applewood Village (Mississauga), Nipissing Shopping Plaza (North Bay), East Mall in Oshawa and the Towers-Food City complex in suburban Peterborough.
1965 William Applebaum makes trade area definition a scientific procedure, Economic Geography, vol. 41.
It is marvellous to watch how distance and detachment work in the real world in conditioning shopping patterns and every time creates a trade area. Yet, some trade areas are stronger than others (see Summary of 544 surveys).
1966 Towne & Countrye Square opens on the Metro border. It began in 1962 with a Sayvette and then the next year a Loblaws was added (Sayvette was operated in that era by Loblaws). A single level enclosed “T” shaped mall link was constructed in 1966. Nine years later, Canadian Tire and The Bay arrive.
Jane Sheppard Mall and West Side Mall are the only other major malls in Metro to open in 1966. Ancaster gets Ancaster Commons, Kitchener Fairview Plaza, London Argyle Mall, Sault Ste. Marie Market Square and Fort William Cataraqui Square (a successful downtown strip mall with free parking, that transfers commerce away from Simpson Street).
1966 The Detroit riots spur shopping at home in Windsor, the arrival of Simpsons-Sears and the development of Devonshire Mall on Howard Avenue.
1966 The underground pedestrian system begins downtown with the opening of the Richmond-Adelaide Centre and then the Mies van der Rohe's first tower of Cadillac’s TD Centre two years later. These giant buildings ensure good traffic flows underground--something unheard of in Europe. (Ultimately, the TD building with 10,000 employees is a locus of personal expenditure of $100 million annually, and its stores are in the top five in Canadian sales productivity).
Unfortunately, Toronto copies Montreal and William Zeckendorf's Place Ville Marie's underground city (1962). (In the 1960s, Montreal was the retail style leader in Canada with Expo, the country's only Gucci store and its only Playboy club; Montreal had the first major downtown transformation with Place Ville Marie). Place Ville Marie's 200,000 square feet of retailing was buried underground. Cities that boomed at least a decade later--Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Halifax—followed Calgary with its "plus 15s" (skywalks). Calgary had to have skywalks because it is in a river valley, and cannot easily go down to create an underground city.
Toronto Planning, by exempting the lower retail arcades from allowable density calculations, encourages the vertical separation of shopping and vehicles.
Today it's a troglodyte's delight, over a million square feet and almost a thousand stores buried under Toronto's downtown, about a fifth of the retail space there (up from five percent in the mid-1970s). The ballet of the street suffered.
1966 The opening of the Bloor subway, on February 26, rather than the Parliament Street loop, solidified Bloor from Avenue to Yonge as a retail node in its own right. Soon Manulife (1973: 280,000 square feet), Hudsons Bay Centre (1975: 420,000 square feet), Hazelton Lanes (1976: 210,000 square feet), and Holt Renfrew (1979: 215,000 square feet) would arrive due to the superlative accessibility of the subway intersection.
The “Y” interchange on the subway is only operated for six months; everyone is concentrated at Bloor, for which the station was not built.
1966 My M.A. thesis on downtown Toronto is accepted. The bid rent curve for central space has declined over the past 13 years (click here for diagram the x-axis is logarithmic).
1967 St. Laurent is the first regional shopping centre in Ottawa anchored by Sears and Dominion. Other new Ontario malls include Frontenac Mall (Kingston), Eastwood (Kitchener), Northland (London), Midtown (Oshawa), K-Mart Plaza (Bells Corners), Midtown (St. Catharines) and Agincourt Mall in Scarborough.
1967 Expo opens in Montreal. The Ontario restaurant there can serve liquor on Sundays, while the real Province goes without.
1967 Sparks Street Pedestrian Mall opens, following the lead of Kalamazoo, MI. Kalamazoo reverts back to traffic; Sparks Street does not (click here).
1967 The Polsuns and Jimmy Kay, the owner of Fairweather, buy the 52 stores of Tip Top Tailors, and take the merged company public. The roller coaster of their share price begins. They purchase Bi-Way, Town and Country and controlling interests in Club Monaco and Harry Rosen for a roster of age-related niche stores.
1967 Dean Muncaster is appointed President of Canadian Tire at the ripe old age of 33. He worked in his father's Sudbury store in his youth. For the next decade, the chain would register 20 percent per year sales growth.
Canadian Tire is the first Ontario organization to adopt point-of-sale computers and a perpetual inventory system with automatic re-ordering, avoiding stock-outs. The Canadian business press, however, prefers to focus on the antics of the controlling family.
1968 Metro Toronto is second only to New York City in North America in construction contracts awarded.
1968 BA Oil is swallowed by Gulf. Loyal customers mourn.
1968 Leading edge of the baby boom reaches 20 years of age.
1968 William Applebaum outlines “The Analogue Method for Estimating Potential Store Sales” for supermarkets in the 10,000 to 15,000 square foot range (Guide to Store Location Research, 1968). By making explicit comparisons between the performance of existing outlets and key factors, an analyst can predict the sales of any new (small) site if its characteristics are known. Ominously, for new format food stores, he notes, “the best the analyst can do is to guesstimate and use his own judgement, based on such data as are available to him”. When I quote this to Miracle Food Mart, they pretend to be horrified, and do not hire me.
1968 The first Canadian McDonald's opens at Oxford and Huron in London, quickly followed by Brampton, Bathurst and Steeles, Keele Street and south Islington, where I encounter my first Big Mac. I confuse them by asking for a knife and fork. In the UK, you always ate a "Wimpy" that way. It would be another nine years before McDonald's Canada opened for breakfast.
It took McDonald's 16 years to reach Canada. The first chain location opened in San Bernadino in 1952. I work for McDonald's planning locations: municipalities at first are fearful of the litter that is characteristic of the older-style chains.
1968 New malls include Burlington Mall, Brookdale and Eastcourt (Cornwall), London Mall, K-Mart Plaza in Ottawa, Meadowlands in Nepean, Lincoln Mall in St. Catharines, Riverside Plaza in Windsor, and two in Metro, Jane Finch and Kipling Heights.
1969 The Gap opens on Ocean Boulevard in San Francisco. It would take two decades to get the first store in Ontario.
1969 Toronto begins paying half the cost for the underground connections in the downtown system. The first beneficiaries are the Wellington Street tunnel (TD to Royal Bank) and the King Street tunnel (TD to First Canadian Place).
1969 The Royal Commission on Evening Shopping travels the country to probe consumers' reactions. Women, who have been entering the workforce in great numbers over the 1960s, want the freedom to shop when it is convenient for them. Female participation in the work force had reached 30 percent and they did not have much time to shop through a weekday (Bruce Mallen, The Benefits and Costs of Evening Shopping to the Canadian Economy, April 1969).
1969 New 1969 Ontario malls include Sheridan SC (a very successful strip between K-Mart and Dominion in Mississauga), Stanley Park (Kitchener), Mcadoo Park (Kingston), Shoppers World Brampton (uniquely offering two department stores, Sears and K-Mart, and two supermarkets, A&P and Food City), Westwood (Mississauga), K-Mart Plaza (St. Catharines), Royal Orchard (Thornhill), County Fair (Fort William) and Centenary Plaza, a couple of years late, in Scarborough.
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