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The rise and fall of Hamilton’s Centre Mall

Today, there is an outdoor plaza of large big-box stores. Two decades ago, Centre Mall in Hamilton was the epicentre of 90s mall teen angst buzzing with arcades and unique stores.

However, in 2008, Canada’s first year-round mall and one of North America’s first shopping centres was demolished to make way for The Centre on Barton, which is a modern outdoor shopping experience that resembles a futuristic strip mall. 

With the depths of Hamilton’s subreddit being nostalgic over the famous mall, the history of the iconic space is being laid out by Redditors and other people on the Internet. 

Back in 1952, the Greater Hamilton Shopping Centre Inc. bought the property that was owned by the Hamilton Jockey Club. They announced that the space would be developed into a regional shopping centre that would cover 71 acres. 

Starting as The Greater Hamilton Shopping Centre, turned Centre Mall, the official opening of the mall was held on October 26th, 1955 even though it was not completely finished. 

Although there were a few shopping centres bigger than the Centre Mall throughout Canada, the Hamilton mall was the first to have cover from colder wet weather making it available for shopping year round. 

Let’s escape the present and reminisce on Center Mall. from r/Hamilton

This attracted a lot of major retailers to the space with the first being Simpsons-Sears with a two-storey building taking up 200,000 square feet of floor space. And by 1954 there were more than 300 applications for space in the mall. 

The second major retailer set up a store at the shopping centre in 1955. The Dominion Store was the largest of the brand in the city with 17 checkout counters. 

By the time Centre Mall was completed, developers had spent more than $18 million. But, it seemed worth it with 30 stores being open when former Hamilton Mayor Lloyd D. Jackson cut the ribbon in 1955. 

About 75,000 people came to Centre Mall on opening day setting a shopping record. After all the mall’s success, plans were unveiled to completely enclose the mall in 1972. 

In 1983, 44 new stores were added costing about $10.5 million. Some additional stores included a K-Mart department store and a newly renovated and expanded Mall Cinema, which became the largest cinema in Canada based in seating having 2,400 seats in eight houses. 

After the Centre Mall Cinema closed in 2001, the mall started to decline and in 2003 it was put up for sale. The Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) Investment Board and Osmington Inc. bought the property and planned a $100 million renovation job.

However in 2006, it was announced that the original structure for the Centre Mall would be demolished to make way for a new urban power centre. And in 2020, The Centre on Barton has been offering amenities to the area with big box retailers such as Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire, and Dollarama taking up the space. 

Although the original Centre Mall is not standing, memories of its arcades and unique stores are often nostalgically remembered in the social media world.

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