Thursday, August 5, 2010

Eaton Place, cityplace

There was a time when Eaton Place in downtown Winnipeg had 100 stores and actually advertised on TV. Today, as a cityplace, it has about a quarter of that.

Manitoba Pubic Insurance Corporation (Autopac) bought the mall and the offices above in 2009 for $80 million. This reflected confidence in the building but not necessarily the mall. The mall itself has shrunk to serve the local office population for the most part.

The construction of the walkway from the Convention Centre and Delta Hotel will certainly give some help to the remaining businesses in terms of walk-through traffic but the days of being a destination in itself are long gone. Even before Eaton's closed, the mall was having greater difficulty in attracting people. At one time a Cineplex theatre was in the mall and although the postage-sized stamp screens were small, it attracted people interested in smaller niche films. Likewise, several movie theatres in the surrounding area including the North Star, Capitol, Odeon, Garrick and Metropolitan meant that many people were downtown and around the shop or eat before or after attending a movie. Mr. Greenjeans was popular among the school-age set for many years.

The success of Silver City first at St. Vital Mall and and then Polo Park accelerated the closures of the downtown theatres until only Portage Place and the Towne remained.

With the closure of Eaton's, the future looked pretty dim for Eaton Place. After its renaming, the only strong point it had was that it was a well leased building for offices and had lots of parking.

The building of the MTS Centre has not been a huge boon for the mall save for Boston Pizza which has benefited from the amount of events been hosted and people seeking out eating establishments.

The fate of Eaton Place in Winnipeg in its smaller cityplace form is in contrast to Eaton Centre in Toronto. Eaton Centre was built in 1977, two years before Eaton Place. Whereas Eaton Place in Winnipeg was renamed cityplace and fell from its peak, Eaton's Centre kept its name and its place as a top level retailing location. In 2010, Eaton Centre will be renovated. It has been expanded and upgraded twice before in 1990 and 1999.

Winnipeg is not Toronto but one wonders what might have happened if Eaton Place in Winnipeg had been expanded and Portage Place never built. Eaton Centre only has 235 stores now. The combined Portage Place and Eaton Place stores would have been comparable to Eaton Centre Toronto.

All along the initial push for north Portage was for an arena. It is hard not to think how it might have been different. Nothing would have stopped Eaton's department store from failing but the push for a second mall with 100 stores to compete with Eaton Place (cityplace) was probably misguided.

Things will probably go better for cityplace with a walkway but a future of further success might be better directed at complementing the MTS Centre. And by that I mean that given the location of the mall, it might be well suited for additional restaurants and entertainment geared to events next door.

By the way, I am trying to remember all the shops that were in Eaton Place. Any help in that regard would be great.

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Prairie Topiary said...

I remember two music stores in the mall: A&A Records on the first floor north of Graham and Sam the Record Man on the second floor south of Graham. Later on, after A&A closed, the Human Society opened a storefront in the same space.

For a long time, A&W had a store on the northeast end on the first floor.

There was a Radio Shack on the second floor for awhile in the late 90s. I think that replaced one on the first floor, though I can't remember where.

What I used to think was neat about the second floor was that the skywalk was filled with shops so that you couldn't tell you were actually in a skywalk. One store just on the south end of the skywalk in the 1980s was a chocolate specialty shop where you could buy chocolate sculptures of all shapes and sizes.

For awhile, the mall tried to make a go of filling the Eaton Place basement on the north side. While it never really took off, Asia Gifts (now on the south side) was one place located there for a long time. The basement also featured a giant-sized chess board where mostly retired guys would gather to watch a match.

The south side had a carpet store right on Graham for awhile and I think it was some sort of art/sculpture store before that.

Enviro Trends, now on Taylor Avenue, once also had a store on the south side.

In the 80s, the south side also had some sort of open terrace type restaurant on the first floor that was quite popular. I can't remember its name.

The pharmacy on the first floor at the south end was there as long as I can remember, but it was once about half the size before major renovations in the 90s.

I also remember a print shop in the 90s across from where Boston Pizza now is.

That's all I can remember for now!

John Dobbin said...

Thanks. I used to work at A&A Records at Madison Square. At one point, it was one of the larger record stores in Canada.

Sam the Record Man was also a fairly large presence in the country. Alas, both are gone now.

I do remember how the walkway was a seamless part of the mall connecting to Eaton's.

Excalibur was the pinball/video arcade place on the first floor, I think.

There was also a pet store for many years in the mall also on the first floor. Can't remember the name of it.

I used to park at Eaton Place frequently when going to movies.

Orange Rod said...

Sam the Record man was great, I remember the once in the old unicity mall. They supported local bands as well. I don't think the Barenaked Ladies would be as popular as they are with Sam the Record man carrying their indie cassette in all their stores.

mrchristian said...

A list of all the original tenants, from my latest WDP post ! This is from an Oct 1979 ad in the Free Press

Anonymous said...

What restaurant was in Eatones Place on the south side at St. Marys before Boston Pizza?