From The Archives: The History of Grant Park Shopping Centre

The land that Grant Park Shopping Centre sits on was near the end of the line for Winnipeg. The Grand Trunk Rail line (later CN) was built in 1908 and was bush country beyond River Heights and Fort Rouge. But it was also Rooster Town and it existed as a Metis community from 1920 to around 1961. It was housing, not connected to water or roads, and the people were vulnerable. It’s difficult to say if any of the people lived or worked nearby thereafter.

In 1962 land was broken to create Grant Park Shopping Centre, which was a series of detached stores along what would become Grant Avenue. The entire area was experiencing post World War II growth at an an accelerated rate. The mall itself opened in 1964.

The stores were originally detached. Safeway, Dominion and Clarke’s were some of the original stores. Woolco was added in 1966 and triggered a court case with Clarke’s that went all the way to the Supreme Court. The decision went to Woolco and triggered even more work to enclose the mall so that stores were connected together like a true mall.

The photo above is from 1969, the first that Woolco got attached to mall. The photo below is also from 1969 and shows the corridor with Pizza Place on the right. The new movie theatre is immediately right in the picture and the corridor to the left leads to the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission (simply called The Commission) and the Imperial Bank. The bank is still there as CIBC and MLCC is now in a different place as Manitoba Liquor Mart.

Pizza Place lasted many decades and might have lasted a lot more. The multi-year renovations and store closures of Woolco, Zellers and Target were brutal. Many retailers inside moved a number of times. A few of them failed as a result of so many changes.

Grant Park certainly has gone through a dizzying array of changes from the day is has been built. However, today’s Red River Co-op, Canadian Tire and Goodlife additions may represent a time of stability for the mall.

In 1969 the movie theatre opened and the entrance to it was through the mall. It was Winnipeg’s first Cinerama theatre with a curved screen. The theatre was a 742 seat hall and was one of the more comfortable places to see a movie in the city.

The first movie was a special effects wonder called Krakatoa and had Winnipggers coming to check out both the movie and the new theatre.

By 1969 there were many towers surrounding the mall and across the street. South River Heights had filled in. And Woolco was the perfect suburban store with its candy section and Red Grille restaurant. By then, the whole mall became enclosed and there was steady traffic down the corridor past the Pizza Place to Woolco.

The parking lot outside Grant Park would be largely just parking till the 1970s when McDonald’s among came to town. Today there are restaurants the entire roadside.

The movie theatre became a multiplex in 1989 and has since been re-configured a few times. It’s now a Landmark Theatre which could be one of the poshest movie houses in town along side Cineplex’s VIP theatre.

As of the end of 2019 with Red River Co-op grocery store renovations ending, Grant Park is probably going to have some stability after years of renovations. Pizza Place, which became Autumnbee’s Pizza for a short time, now remains empty.

Grant Park has evolved with suburbia and still remains popular with the young and old.

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