NORTH HILL CENTRE
16th Avenue NW and 14th Street NW
Calgary, Alberta


Edmonton's WESTMOUNT SHOPPERS' PARK opened, in August 1955, as the first post-war shopping complex in the province of Alberta. Down in Calgary, ground was broken in 1956 for its first suburban shopping hub, which would be Alberta's second post-war retail complex.

Originally known as CALGARY CENTRE, it was developed by Toronto-based Principal Investments, Limited. The facility was built on a 17 acre site, located 1.2 miles northwest of the Central Business District. 


Open-air in format, CALGARY CENTRE was essentially a strip-type structure with a small mall corridor on its east end. Most of its forty-five stores and services were situated on a single retail level. The Calgary Centre Bowling Lanes occupied a basement section. 30,000 square feet of leased office spaces were on an upper floor.

CALGARY CENTRE was anchored by a 2-level (221,100 square foot) Simpsons-Sears and included Reitman's ladies' wear, Tamblyn Drugs, Bata Shoes, a Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio, F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10, Zeller's discount mart and two supermarkets; Loblaws Groceteria and Dominion.

Stores in the 3 million dollar retail hub began opening in June 1958, with the official grand opening held on October 23rd of the same year. The inaugural festivities were officiated by D.H. Mackay, Mayor of Calgary. 
Music was provided by the Lord Strathcona Royal Canadians military band. There were also a parade and nighttime fireworks display, as well as a dance presentation by the Sarcee Native Canadian Tribe.

The grand opening festivities continued with the "Wake-A-Thon" contest, held by CFAC radio. Disc jockey Doug Short broadcast live from a booth at the front of the Lazy Susan Restaurant. Contestants submitted bids for how long the D.J. could stay awake. Lastly, no festivities in 1958 would have been complete without a Hula Hoop Contest.

Within months of the grand opening, the Principal Developments company was in financial trouble. They had overextended themselves with the construction of several Canadian shopping centres. Late in 1958, they sold seventeen properties, including CALGARY CENTRE, to Montreal-based CEMP Investments.

CEMP, in turn, created a new subsidiary, known as the Fairview Corporation. This entity would manage the Principal Development acquisitions and create new shopping centres throughout Canada. 


Following their purchase of CALGARY CENTRE, Fairview bestowed a new name on the complex...NORTH HILL CENTRE. The first alteration done by Fairview was the construction of the Fairview Bowling Centre, a 48-lane, ultra-modern facility. It replaced the complex's original basement bowling alley.

The new Bowling Centre, which was built over a ground level parking deck, opened for business on August 30, 1962. It was eventually joined by the National General Corporation North Hill Cinerama Theatre, which was built on top of the Bowling Centre. This single-screen venue opened December 21, 1967, showing 20th Century-Fox's "Valley of the Dolls".

The original competitors of NORTH HILL CENTRE were CHINOOK CENTRE (1960) {4.5 miles southeast, in Calgary} and SOUTHRIDGE MALL (1965), which was built on a pad north of CHINOOK CENTRE. These shopping hubs were merged into a single complex, known as CHINOOK-RIDGE CENTRE, in 1972.

Other local malls were developed in the city limits of Calgary. These included MARKET MALL {2.4 miles northwest} and NORTHLAND VILLAGE CENTRE {2.6 miles northwest}, both dedicated in 1971. 1974 brought the completion of SOUTHCENTRE MALL {7.8 miles southeast}.

For NORTH HILL CENTRE to remain competitive, it was deemed necessary to modernize the open-air structure. Construction commenced in March 1973 on a 2 million dollar renovation which added a block of twenty stores along the south-facing front of the existing strip.

Designed by Abugov & Sunderland Architects, the enclosed mallway was done in "warm earthy colours", with paneled ceilings, rough brick walls and dark brown flooring. It was lined by large brick support columns and the roof was of inconsistent heights.

The addition was formally dedicated August 30, 1973. The mall now housed seventy stores and services. New tenants included Fiesta Fashions, Aggies Shoes, Coffee Tea & Spice, Craig's Keyboards, a Flavor King ice cream parlour, Peking Duck Chinese restaurant and Royal Soap Box Hoover vacuum cleaner dealership.

The official name of the Simpsons-Sears at NORTH HILL CENTRE had been shortened to "Sears". The Loblaws Groceteria was now an Lmart, which was a short-lived discount foods division of Loblaws. The Dominion store had been operating under the Safeway Canada banner since 1971.

NORTH HILL CENTRE became accessible via light rail transit in the following decade. The Calgary C-Train 8th Street-to-University Northwest Line extension began revenue service on September 17, 1987. Its Lions Park station was adjacent to the mall's southwest parking area.

Rival shopping centres proliferated in Calgary during the 1980s and '90s. The first of these, DEERFOOT MALL {3.6 miles northeast}, opened in 1981. Then came WESTHILLS TOWN CENTRE {4.6 miles southwest}, inaugurated in 1993. This was followed by CROWFOOT CROSSING {6.1 miles northwest,} in 1999.

NORTH HILL CENTRE was sold in February 1999. It was acquired by a joint venture of Saskatchewan's Harvard Developments and Calgary's Ronmor Developers. Within months, they had initiated construction on a 26 million dollar reconfiguration of the 41-year-old shopping hub.

The Loblaws / Lmart structure, on the west end of the complex, had been rebranded as a Super Valu and then vacated in the mid-1990s. It was demolished, along with Bowling Centre / Cinerama building, on the north side of the centre. Moreover, the mallway roof and its obtrusive support columns were ripped out, with a new ceiling installed.

Six stores were set up in existing mall space and a small northside addition. These faced outward and included Chili's Texas Grill, Moore's Clothing for Men, Mark's Work Wearhouse, Petcetera and Ricky's All Day Grill. The west end of the mall was also rebuilt, with a 1-level (46,900 square foot) Safeway and 13-bay Food Court.

The renovation of NORTH HILL CENTRE was completed in June of the year 2000. The mall now encompassed 523,900 leasable square feet and contained eighty-four stores and services. The centre became a mixed-use facility when twin 8-storey condominium towers were built in the southwest parking area. Known as Renaissance at North Hill, these were completed between 2001 and 2004.

In 2009, an additional NORTH HILL competitor opened for business. CROSSIRON MILLS {10.1 miles northeast} was located in neighboring Rocky View County.

By this time, NORTH HILL CENTRE was being managed by Vancouver-based Bentall Kennedy Canada. A (22,000 square foot) Winners apparel store opened in the mall on September 12, 2017. The 59-year-old Sears store was shuttered on January 21, 2018. 


Sources:

The Calgary Herald

http://northhillcentre.com
www.bentallkennedy.com
www.calgarytransit.com
http://movie-theatre.org / Mike Rivest



FAIR USE OF NORTH HILL CENTRE IMAGES:

The photos from Calgary Herald illustrate a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The images are of lower resolution than the originals (copies made would be of inferior quality). The images are not replaceable with free-use or public-domain images. The use of the images does not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute the images in any way. The images are being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and their use is not believed to detract from the original images in any way.