At the time of its construction in 1981 and 1982, the Rideau Centre was somewhat controversial: a whole block of stores was torn down to make room for the Rideau Centre, and many people were opposed to their destruction. Others feared the impact of increased traffic and buses on the area. The Eaton'sdepartment store chain, one of the partners in the development, caused further controversy when it attempted to rename the mall the "Rideau Eaton Centre" while it was still under construction; the company backed down in the face of local opposition to the name change.This mall was officially opened on March 16, 1983.
Rideau Centre security and maintenance staff have been the subject of a number of controversies. In 2002, security staff handcuffed and detained two men for carrying an Israeli flag in order to enforce a mall rule prohibiting political signs. The men claimed that abusive comments were made towards them as Jews but a police investigation was unable to sustain the allegations of anti-semitic abuse. In 2011, security staff handcuffed and detained a man who was attempting to cancel a gym membership. The man was released when police arrived and the Rideau Centre's tenant GoodLife Fitness suffered a media-backlash over the incident. That same year, as 9 people, including a former Speaker of the House of Commons and other dignitaries were trapped for more than an hour and a half in the mall elevator, a former Senator criticized the Rideau Centre for its slow response time.
Significant changes are underway at the Rideau Centre. A 360 million dollar modernization and expansion project is being undertaken. Of this, roughly 100 million dollars is going towards re-cladding the exterior of the mall, modernization of the entire interior and preparing the top two floors of the former Sears space as Nordstrom. The first floor of the Sears space was converted to a new food court, leaving the old concessions on Rideau street open for future street level retail. Plans have not yet been announced for the movie theatre on the rooftop terrace, which closed on March 21, 2013.