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Renderings show redesigned City Centre Mall in downtown Edmonton

Click to play video: 'Could Edmonton’s City Centre Mall be preparing for a makeover?' Could Edmonton’s City Centre Mall be preparing for a makeover?
WATCH ABOVE: After struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic, there's a ray of hope for downtown Edmonton in the form of a potential facelift for City Centre Mall. Sarah Ryan reports – Sep 2, 2021

Over the last few years, a number of retailers in Edmonton’s City Centre Mall have pulled out, including big anchors like Hudson’s Bay and Holt Renfrew. Now, renderings online show the mall may be getting an overhaul.

“That City Centre Mall is being redesigned and revitalized is really exciting and really integral to the future of our downtown, to be honest,” explained the area’s city councillor, Scott McKeen.

The drawings show a mall with a glass facade, sidewalk restaurants and cafes, as well as multiple new entrances.

“City Centre hasn’t had a really large renovation down to the studs since the 80s,” said Heather Thomson, executive director of the University of Alberta’s School of Retailing.

“The way we consume — the we way we shop — has changed. So I think we’re quite overdue for this.”

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She attributed the mall’s struggles to a lack of consistent foot traffic — a problem exacerbated by the pandemic — with many office towers shuttered for months.

But McKeen said he believes the mall’s exterior aesthetics also failed to draw people in.

“Walking past them, there’s nothing to see, nothing to do,” he said. “And therefor, you don’t get a sense of activity, vitality — and I think it added to this sense that the downtown is unsafe, or that it’s kind of dead.”

Thomson is optimistic a fresh take on City Centre Mall could be a catalyst for improvements and investment downtown, the same way the Ice District did further north.

“When things look good, as a consumer, we’re more confident to spend money,” she said. “But then as a business, we’re also more confident to set up shop and make that investment.”

READ MORE: City launches strategy to bring life back to Edmonton’s downtown

The retail expert added the mall will benefit from having more people living downtown as well.

“People think if you provide a business, socialization will happen. But it’s always the other way around. You provide socialization opportunities and businesses tend to set up shop.”

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McKeen said he hopes the mall’s owners can find ways to entice customers from other parts of the city too.

“You’ve got to offer people reasons to make the LRT trip or to drive downtown and experience that,” he explained, adding it has to be worth the added cost of parking, something other malls don’t charge for.

Global News reached out to City Centre Mall to try and discuss the project further, but an interview request was denied.

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