Sunday, February 25, 2024

Cloverdale Mall’s redevelopment plans point to a steady decline in retail spaces – The Medium

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Online shopping has steadily increased for Canadians, spiking dramatically in the last few years after the pandemic. This increased online shopping poses a threat to retail stores, and recent trends regarding retail stores have begun to predict the demise of shopping malls.

According to Statista, an online platform that specializes in data gathering, most Canadians are shopping online. The number of Canadian online shoppers went up from 73 per cent in 2018 to 82 per cent in 2022—posing a huge threat to shopping malls, particularly those smaller strips with fewer stores.

The redevelopment of Cloverdale Mall, which initially opened in 1956 and is located in Etobicoke, close to the Mississauga border, serves as one example of the everchanging retail trends. While the mall is not as large as ones like the Square One Shopping Centre, Cloverdale Mall is well-known in the Etobicoke area with its assortment of big retail spaces such as Winners, Metro, Dollarama, Kitchen Stuff Plus, Home Hardware, and Rexall Drugstore. 

Cloverdale Mall’s flagship retail space has been vacant since 2015 and has been through multiple changes. Zellers occupied the space from 2005 until 2012 when Hudson’s Bay Company sold the leases of their Zellers locations to Target. The retail space reopened as Target in March 2013 but only lasted two years as Target withdrew from Canada in early 2015 and closed all their stores. 

The space has remained vacant since, except when it was briefly used as a Covid-19 vaccine clinic in 2021. The loss of its largest retail space undoubtedly impacted the mall in many ways. The mall may have seen a different fate if Target had remained open. 

Today, Cloverdale Mall faces the challenge of remaining open in the coming years. In 2020, QuadReal Property Group, which has owned the mall since 2004, proposed replacing it with an innovative mixed-use community. The corporation states it will include “shopping, residential homes, all seasons’ parklands, arts and culture, programming, fitness and wellness facilities, restaurants, and community uses.” 

Although the mall will be demolished, the developers claim that it “will continue to be a service-based centre while offering new retail opportunities that respond to the rapidly changing retail landscape.” The proposal mentioned that “evolving retail trends and consumer preferences” are why malls like Cloverdale Mall will struggle going forward. The community, which will continue to be located at 250 The East Mall, will be named Cloverdale Square.

Despite QuadReal’s assurance that the mixed space will provide great service to Etobicoke, community members have expressed concerns over the redevelopment. In December 2019, one individual created a petition on titled “Save Cloverdale” citing the mall’s history and importance to Etobicoke. Today, the petition has more than 300 signatures.

Many community members used the petition to share why they are against building the new space. In May 2023, user Layla Linger commented, “We don’t need more expensive condos. If they were building one for low-income families I would understand but obviously that isn’t happening.” 

Another user, George Rigakos, questioned why developers chose Cloverdale Mall as opposed to Honeydale Mall, “which has sat dormant for many years.” The user went on to comment, “Cloverdale is loved by many.”

Honeydale Mall, a former mall located near Cloverdale Mall on Dundas Street, closed several years ago. Its downfall parallel Cloverdale Mall, as it previously housed a flagship store for Walmart and No Frills which lasted for nearly a decade.

When the Honeydale Walmart closed in 2004, nothing replaced it, and the mall began to fade. An article by blogTO described Honeydale as being in a “zombie state” during this time, as it remained open despite losing most retailers. 

The Hurontario Light Rail Transit line will run through the middle of Jane and Finch Mall, prompting a similar redevelopment plan to Cloverdale Mall. 

Community members have expressed concerns that the new additions will gentrify their community and result in less affordable living. This would impact many community members, especially immigrants living in the area.

Despite similar plans of redeveloping Honeydale, none have come to fruition. It has been labelled “Toronto’s only true dead mall” and remains abandoned to this day. The downfall of both Honeydale Mall and Cloverdale Mall reflects the growing trends in online shopping and a lesser need for in-person shopping centres.

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