The Un-Malling of Northgate Shopping Centre

The Northgate Shopping Centre on McPhillips owned by a family outside of Manitoba seemed to be content for many years to slowly decline. The closure of the Zellers years earlier left a 120,000 square foot hole. Target snubbed it as a location and there it stood a testimony that the mall had seen better days.

It is difficult to say whether the take-over of the Zellers by Save-On-Foods was the impetus for rehabilitating the mall or whether the owners decided to make a change. Whatever the reason, $20 million has been allocated to de-mall Northgate Shopping Centre.

The first step was to find a replacement for the Zellers and that came in the form of the largest Save-On-Foods in Winnipeg. At 65,000 square feet and the added title of International to its names, it carries more products that any of the other stores of that company built thus far.

But that wasn’t all.

The next step was to get tenants already on the mall to buy in to the full upgrade and attract new original stores. One of the notable add on will be Jollibee’s, a Philippines-based fast food franchise that opens next week in two locations including Northgate. They will be Canada’s first.

A new Tim Horton’s will also be up to accommodate the coffee lovers of the area.

The enclosed part of the the L-shaped mall comes to an end. In its place will be the first location of Fit 4 Less by Goodlife, the discount arm of Goodlife Fitness. At first it was thought that Winnipeg first location for this division would be the Grant Park Mall but plans have since changed. Grant Park will get a large Goodlife Fitness and the Fit 4 less will occupy 25,000 square feet of Northgate Shopping Centre.

The city’s only discount theatre Cinema City will continue to be an anchor in the mall and several longtime loyal tenants will get upgrades. Royal Bank, Reider Insurance and Medicine Shoppe pharmacy all factor into the re-furbished mall.

The northeast quadrant of the city has many people living it, lots of traffic down McPhillips but largely absent landlords in the last numbers years. Not a lot of love in terms of investing in the property in compared to Grant Park Mall, Charleswood Mall and along Pembina Highway.

It would seen that Northgate’s investment has spurred Garden City Mall to action after years of neglect. Still, it would take quite a bit to beat the millions being spent at Northgate.

It is true that commuters will travel some distance to places like Polo Park but the need of good local grocers, pharmacists and coffee shops is always there. The danger for Northgate was that if they didn’t invest, more and more stores and services would have left. Now, they might have the right mix and the un-mall style to rejuvenate retailing in the region. In fact, they have stores now that people will make a special trip for.

This has been an editorial by John Dobbin.
To read more from John, visit his blog Observations, Reservations, Conversations