GREATER HAMILTON CENTRE
Barton Street East and Kenilworth Avenue North
Hamilton, Ontario

Canada's first regional-size retail complex was built on a 71 acre site, located 2 miles east of Hamilton's Central Business District. Once owned by the Gage family, the plot was developed as the Hamilton Jockey Club, a thoroughbred racing track, which opened in June 1893.

Toronto's E.P. Taylor acquired the property in 1952. Ground was broken in April 1954 for a suburban shopping complex, whose initial stage consisted of a 2-level (200,000 square foot) Simpsons-Sears. 

The store, the nation's fourth Simpsons-Sears location, featured a beauty salon, coffee shop, hearing aid & optical department, lawn & garden department, freestanding (15,000 square foot) Auto Centre and 1,600 parking spaces. 

An official dedication was held November 17, 1954. By this time, construction of an open-air mall was underway. Its first component, a freestanding (22,000 square foot) Dominion supermarket, opened its doors April 21, 1955.  
  
Lloyd D. Jackson, Mayor of Hamilton, cut the ceremonial ribbon at the official dedication of GREATER HAMILTON CENTRE, a.k.a. THE CENTRE. Its initial 31 tenants began business October 26, 1955. By late 1956, the 18 million dollar mall housed 60 stores and services.

Among these were Merle's Fashions, The Stag men's wear, Gould's department store, Tip Top Tailors, Kent Drugs, Caplan's Furniture & Appliance, an S.S. Kresge 5 & 10 and freestanding (25,000 square foot) Loblaws Groceteria.

Ground had been broken in July 1956 for a second anchor department store. Montreal's Henry Morgan & Company built a 2-level (140,000 square foot) mercantile. It opened, as the largest store in the chain, on May 14, 1957. 

THE CENTRE now spanned over 500,000 leasable square feet, with a 4,000-car-capacity parking lot. It was hailed as the largest shopping centre in Canada.

Anchor rebrandings commenced after the Hudson's Bay Company acquired the assets of the Morgan's chain, in late 1960. By 1964, the west anchor store at THE CENTRE was operating as The Bay. Simpsons-Sears, on the east end of the complex, became a standard Sears in August 1973.

A freestanding multiplex was built in parking area north of the Dominion store. Originally known as the National General Cinemas Centre Twin, the venue opened in January 1969. A (23,300 square foot) Canadian Tire store was added to the west side of the cinema.

Greater Hamilton's first enclosed shopping centre was a downtown redevelopment. The first phase of JACKSON SQUARE was dedicated in 1970. The region's earliest suburban interior mall was EASTGATE SQUARE {2.4 miles southeast of THE CENTRE, in Stoney Creek}. This complex opened in April 1973.  

As a keeping up measure, a renovation to enclose THE CENTRE had been announced in October 1972. During the 2 million dollar reconstruction, open court areas were filled with new store space. When the project was completed, the shopping hub was renamed CENTRE MALL.

A second rival for CENTRE MALL opened in the following decade. LIME RIDGE MALL {2 miles southwest, in Hamilton} was inaugurated in September 1981. 
Another keeping up-type renovation was performed at CENTRE MALL. The shopping hub was expanded with a new North Wing. It contained 35 stores, a 7-bay Food Court, and 1-level (62,000 square foot) Kmart. 

The 11 million dollar addition was dedicated in January 1983. CENTRE MALL now spanned approximately 700,000 leasable square feet, with a tenant list of 120 stores.

Loblaws, a charter mall tenant, was shuttered in  the early 1980s. Canadian Tire enlarged the vacant store and re-opened in the (61,300 square foot) space in 1986. The original Canadian Tire location housed a 6-screen expansion of the movie multiplex. It, and the existing Twin-plex, became the Cineplex Odeon Centre Mall 8.

By this time, The Bay anchor store had been rebranded by the Hamilton-based G.W. Robinson Company. The Dominion was now an A & P. The Robinson's chain went defunct in 1989. The CENTRE MALL store sat vacant until 1992, when a 2-level (101,000 square foot) Zellers opened in the space. Kmart was shuttered in 1998.

CENTRE MALL was in decline by the dawn of the 21st century, with most inline store space leased to mom & pop-type tenants . The facility was acquired by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board in September 2003. Toronto's Redcliff Realty Group was enlisted as a managing agent.

They formulated a plan to redevelop the shopping hub as an open-air power center. The first order of business was to demolish the vacant North Wing, so that construction could begin on a new Zellers.

The 1-level (110,900 square foot) store was dedicated December 4, 2008. It was the first major retailer to open in the new, 100 million dollar, CENTRE ON BARTON. Sears pulled the plug on their CENTRE MALL store on September 9, 2008. The vacant building was demolished in October. 

A combination Canadian Tire and Mark's (encompassing 107,400 square feet) opened its doors in the spring of 2009. The old Zellers was knocked down in April. By June, the last 12 stores in the mall had been shuttered. It was razed in July and August of 2009.

Meanwhile, construction progressed on new CENTRE ON BARTON stores. The vacant Canadian Tire was bulldozed, with a 1-level (88,800 square foot) WalMart welcoming its first shoppers on November 16, 2012. 

Redcliff Realty Group was acquired by Calgary-based Coril Holdings in October 2011 and merged with Vancouver's Tonko Realty Advisors in June 2012. Triovest Realty Advisors, a new Toronto-based concern, was formed. 

As this was playing out, Zellers was engulfed by a newly-formed Canadian division of Target. Zellers at CENTRE ON BARTON was Target-branded on April 5, 2012 (and shuttered on April 2, 2015). 

During the Target trajectory, additional CENTRE ON BARTON stores were inaugurated. A (30,100 square foot) Marshalls began business April 4, 2013, followed by a (21,100 square foot) Michaels, which held its grand opening on August 10.

One of the most recent store dedications was for a (5,700 square foot) PetSmart, which took place December 19, 2015. With its completion, CENTRE ON BARTON spanned 688,800 leasable square feet and contained 70 stores and services.

Sources: 

https://www.thespec.com (The Hamilton, Ontario Spectator)
"Operation Shopping Centers" / D.L. Curtiss
http://spacing.ca / "The Rise & Fall of Ontario’s First Regional Mall" / Sean Marshall 
http://www.redcliffrealty.com /Redcliff Realty Group
www.centremall.ca (website on Internet Archive Wayback Machine)
http://forum.skyscraperpage.com / "fastcarsfreedom" and "SteelTown"
https://www.newswire.ca
https://triovest.com / Triovest Realty Advisors