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Shopping mall thrall

BY Annette Bourdeau
Illustration by Evan Munday

Illustration by Evan Munday

West Edmonton Mall introduced developers to the value of theme park shopping malls in 1983 and, more than 20 years later, it is still the largest shopping centre in the country, by far. But since then, consumers have been lured out of enclosed malls, opting instead to drive their SUVs from store to store at big-box complexes. These “power centres” grew by more than 300 percent in the Greater Toronto Area between 1995 and 2002, but experts are predicting that the big-box boom is over, and that enclosed malls will soon reign again. The Mills Corp., of Arlington, Virginia, has taken note of this shift and is designing new indoor malls to promote “shoppertainment.”

Vaughan Mills, scheduled to open in November, will be the first Mills project in Canada—and the first enclosed mall built here in 14 years. Adjacent to Paramount Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan, Ontario, Vaughan Mills is almost a theme park in itself, housing six different theme communities and even a NASCAR SpeedPark.

While Vaughan Mills won’t rival Canada’s Wonderland in size, or West Edmonton Mall in number of stores, it may prove to give both a run for their money.

Canada’s Wonderland West Edmonton Mall Vaughan Mills
Opening year 1981 1983 2004
Total square feet(developed) 13 million 5.3 million 1.2 million
Parking spaces 10,300 20,000 6,301
Retail stores 11 800 200
Jobs 4,000 23,500 3,500
Populationwithin 100 km 7.5 million 900,000 7.5 million
Number of theme streets or communities 9 3 6

As This Magazine's circ person, editorial assistant and contributor, Annette Bourdeau prefers to be called simply "Miss Random Task." She's still trying to lose her Calgary accent after four years living in Toronto.

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