Eaton Centre

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Toronto Eaton Centre

Eaton Centre is a name associated with shopping centres in Canada, originating with Eaton's, one of Canada's largest department store chains at the time that these malls were developed. Eaton's partnered with development companies throughout the 1970s and 1980s to develop downtown shopping malls in cities across Canada. Each mall contained an Eaton's store, or was in close proximity to an Eaton's store, and typically the mall itself carried the "Eaton Centre" name. These joint ventures were a significant retail development trend in Canada during that period.[1]

With the demise of the Eaton's chain in 1999, and the retiring of the Eaton's name as a retail banner in 2002, most of these malls have been renamed, and most of these Eaton's location have been converted to Sears Canada stores. As of today only the Toronto and Montreal Eaton Centres retain the Eaton name. Some malls in smaller urban areas, which were typically the least successful of all the Eaton Centre developments, have been demolished or converted to other, non-retail uses. In 2014, Sears announced that it would close its Eaton Centre location. In 2016, the location was converted into a Nordstrom. Sears Canada's head office in the upper levels of the former Sears was closed in 2018 when all liquidation finished of Sears Canada.

Current Eaton Centres[edit]

Montreal Eaton Centre
Former Calgary Eaton Centre, prior to renovations
  • Toronto Eaton Centre, Toronto, Ontario: Opened in 1977, it is the largest of the Eaton Centres and one of Toronto's most visited tourist attractions. The mall sits on the site of the original store operated by Eaton's founder, Timothy Eaton, and the related Eaton's factories and mail order buildings.
  • Montreal Eaton Centre, Montreal, Quebec: Opened in 1990 on Sainte-Catherine Street, it is Downtown Montreal's largest shopping mall. It is situated next to Eaton's former Montreal flagship store (also formerly the Complexe Les Ailes mall). The mall owner, Ivanhoe Cambridge, announced in March 2014 that it will merge the Montreal Eaton Centre with the neighbouring Complexe Les Ailes, however contrary to a previously made statement, will preserve the "Montreal Eaton Centre" name .[2] The merger and renovation, to be completed by 2020, will restore the Eaton name to the former flagship store building.[3]

Former Eaton Centres[edit]

  • The Core Shopping Centre, Calgary, Alberta: This downtown mall was constructed in the late 1980s, and required the demolition of the historic Eaton's store (Eaton's moved into larger premises in the new mall). Two facades of the old Eaton's store (1929-1980s) were preserved, and incorporated into the new retail podium. The "Calgary Eaton Centre" name was retained until 2010 (despite Eaton's departure in 2002) when it was dropped from marketing and branding efforts and renamed The Core Shopping Centre.
  • Edmonton City Centre, Edmonton, Alberta: After the demise of Eaton's, the Edmonton Eaton Centre and Edmonton Centre, two formerly independent malls, were redeveloped into one shopping complex, and The Bay, a former Eaton's competitor, moved into the former Eaton's store.
  • The Bay Centre, Victoria, British Columbia: When Eaton's went bankrupt, the former Eaton's store (1990-1999) in this mall was occupied for a short time by Sears Canada's "eatons" experiment, and afterwards by a Sears store. When Sears vacated the mall, the "Victoria Eaton Centre" was renamed to reflect the mall's new department store tenant, the Bay.
  • Metropolis at Metrotown, Burnaby, British Columbia: The Eaton Centre Metrotown opened in 1989. With the departure of the Eaton's store a decade later, the Eaton Centre and the adjacent Metrotown Centre were incorporated into one megamall complex.
  • Cityplace, Winnipeg, Manitoba: Formerly "Eaton Place", this shopping and office complex occupies the former Eaton's mail order warehouse, and is located behind the city's new arena, Canada Life Centre (the site of the former downtown Eaton's store, now demolished).

Other major Eaton's locations[edit]

Pacific Centre in Vancouver
Rideau Centre in Ottawa

Although neither has ever carried the Eaton name (both did, however, contain Eaton's stores), these two malls were developed by the Eaton's chain and its partners, and both are "Eaton Centres" in all but name.

  • Pacific Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia: Constructed in phases from 1971 to 1973, this mall contained Eaton's flagship Vancouver store.
  • Rideau Centre, Ottawa, Ontario: Prior to its construction in 1981–1982, Ottawa's "Rideau Centre" project had been subject to many years of planning. Prior to the mall's opening, Eaton's attempted to rename the mall the "Rideau Eaton Centre", but the chain was forced to back down due to the local outcry generated by the "eleventh hour" proposed name change. Nonetheless, Eaton's added an "E" to the mall's logo (although the letter has long since been removed).

Ontario Downtown Renewal Program (ODRP)[edit]

Commencing in the early 1970s, Ontario's provincial government poured millions of dollars over the course of a decade into the ODRP in order to revitalize the downtown retail areas of smaller communities throughout the Province. Typically, this involved the construction of new downtown malls to compete with growing suburban shopping opportunities.

However, there was no business case or market analysis to justify the construction of these downtown malls. Many residents noted that the enclosed facilities represented the antithesis to the one unique aspect of downtown shopping, street-related stores. Often the new downtown mall had a "vacuum cleaner" effect of attracting the stronger street boutiques away from their neighbourhoods to become tenants in unstable shopping centres. The lack of free parking in the downtown area was the number one impetus for residents flocking to suburban malls which had free parking, which did not help the cause of the downtown malls whose garages charged fees, collected by the municipalities who usually financed the construction mall garages.[4]

Nonetheless, in a highly criticized business decision, Eaton's became a partner in the program, and its stores served as the anchor tenant in many of these malls. As stated in The Globe and Mail newspaper, "The history of retailing is filled with tales of merchants who were brilliantly prescient in their location choices, and others who totally misread their markets and fell flat. In the 1970s, the T. Eaton Co. became a textbook example of the latter when it built huge department stores in the increasingly empty downtowns of small Canadian cities; far from reviving the cores, the stores failed as consumers kept taking their business to suburban malls." Conventional wisdom held that only larger cities with populations of 200,000 or greater had a wealthy enough clientele to support upscale department stores such as Eaton's or The Bay, and communities with populations of 100,000 or less were already well-served by existing retailers, such as discount stores Zellers and Woolco, and the lower-end department store Sears Canada.[5]

Toronto Eaton Centre at Christmas

None of these malls ever enjoyed the success of some of the Eaton Centres in larger cities, and their failure contributed to the demise of the entire Eaton's chain.

  • Hamilton Eaton Centre, Hamilton: Unlike most communities subjected to ODRP projects, Eaton's had been present in Hamilton's downtown for many decades. Despite Eaton's years of business in downtown Hamilton, this Eaton's location was never successful. Now renamed "Hamilton City Centre", the majority of the mall houses independent local retailers.
  • Guelph Eaton Centre, Guelph: With the departure of Eaton's, this mall was redeveloped as the Guelph Centre. The site of the Eaton's store now houses the Sleeman Centre, which is a large ice rink. The rest of the mall was converted to a galleria style pedestrian street called 'Old Quebec Street', with offices above the shops.
  • Eaton Market Square, Brantford: Eventually renamed simply "Market Square", much of this mall has been converted to non-retail uses and is home to Freedom House, a church located in the lower part of Market Square
  • Peterborough Square, Peterborough: The former Eaton's store now contains movie theatres.
  • Sarnia Eaton Centre, Sarnia: This mall opened in 1982 but suffered from stiff competition from the existing suburban Lambton Mall. The original landlord Cadillac Fairview sold the property in 1996, while Eaton's departed in 1997 which was 5 years short of its intended 20-year lease, followed by the closing of the A&P supermarket in 2000. Renamed the Bayside Mall after the departure of Eaton's, much of this mall has been converted to office space.[6]
  • Kitchener Market Square, Kitchener: The former Eaton's store (moved in 1977 from former location at 276 King Street West - now Eaton's Lofts) and later Sears store has since been converted to offices, as has much of the remainder of the mall.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McQueen, Rod, The Eatons: The Rise and Fall of Canada's Royal Family, Toronto: Stoddart, 1998.
  2. ^ Fournier, Marie-Eve (21 March 2014). "Les Ailes fermeront aussi à Brossard et à Sainte-Foy". La Presse. Archived from the original on 24 March 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  3. ^ Montreal Eaton Centre Overhaul Details Revealed Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  4. ^ Memorable Moments in Ontario Retailing: 1976, John Winter and Associates, [1] (last accessed November 7, 2006),
  5. ^ Lorinc, John. The Location Equation. The Globe and Mail. March 12, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-18.
  6. ^ "Sarnia mayor says new Bayside Centre owner could be revealed soon".

External links[edit]