I'm getting deja vu. I think there's a thread from a couple of years ago called "what would you do with Portage Place". But I'm not complaining; I like this topic.
Originally Posted by esquire
What it really boils down to is the fact that Portage Place was built on the faulty assumption that Eaton's and The Bay downtown stores would continue to be thriving destinations for years to come. In reality, Eaton's was in real trouble by the early 90s (they began closing floors in the mid 90s and shut the whole thing down by 1999), and while The Bay has fared a bit better, it has been on a steady but gradual descent for the last few decades. Downtown shopping as it was in the early 80s when Portage Place was conceived and how it is now are two completely different scenarios.
Without those anchors, what's the point of retail at Portage Place? As we're finding out now, there really isn't one. In some ways, turning Portage Place entirely into office space might give the rest of downtown retail a shot in the arm... it might encourage more streetfront locations on Portage, Graham and other downtown avenues.
All of this is accurate. In the '90s, Portage Place was about as good as any suburban mall. We could even make the case that the decline of Portage Place is not a symptom of downtown's problems, but that it mirrors what happened to malls all over North America. Portage Place's one asset over long-demolished Charleswood mall, or Northgate--which I see many of you wringing your hands over in the retail thread--is that it's a substantial office building above its two retail floors. I see no reason the trend of converting retail space to offices shouldn't continue.
With that said, a three block long blank wall along Portage does the city no favors. And the mall's remaining retail is an asset to downtown--the cell phone stores, Staples, and the food court are all useful to downtown residents and workers. Finally, the blocks of Portage and Graham just south of Portage Place are having something of a mini-renaissance, with a bunch of fun new retail operations; Portage Place can and should complement this.
So, here's what I suggest.
Keep Staples and Kennedy Court the same. Service Canada has already gobbled up the old Mcnally location, and that's fine. It's just the kind of service-based office that should operate off a semi-public atrium, which is what Kennedy court would become after I closed the central corridor of the mall.
Some of you have floated the idea of putting a grocery store into Portage Place. If anyone is interested in running one, that would be a fine idea for the back (along the Promenade) of the ground floor. Otherwise, I would turn those spaces, and the central corridor into offices, along with the back second floor retail spaces. The retail spaces on the front of Portage Place would turn around to face the street, with a walkway along the second floor to generate some retail intensity on the stretch.
From Edmonton court East, I'd again leave some things the same, even going as far as allowing whatever stores open onto it to continue to do so. But Edmonton Court and the food court would be more open to the outdoors. I'd replace the glass wall along the food court with rolling overhead doors, and do the same with both ends of Edmonton Court, so that outside of winter months the spaces would become semi-open plazas.
From Edmonton Court East