Wednesday, March 25, 2015

1585 Merivale Road - A Visual History

Thanks to the pictures I've come across over the past couple of days, and what I've read out of interest, I think it would be interesting to cover a sort of history of 1585 Merivale Road.

It's a matter of personal interest for me. Everyone would know it as the "Meadowlands Mall" though it isn't a mall, just a facade of stores in a shared building. What I find interesting is the way the facade itself has changed over the years.

It's where Target is now, trying to sell off everything inside from what's on the mostly bare shelves to the shelves themselves.

My mother took me shopping there countless times over the years from when I was a toddler. That's helped in my motivation for knowledge and sharing it as well.

So here I go with the best of what I know.
Expansion in 1968; bottom segment was constructed two years earlier than that.

From what I've read in comments on Facebook and other places online, the bottom segment of building - the part closest to Meadowlands Drive - contained a Steinberg's. In  September and October of 1968, a Miracle Mart and a Pascal's Hardware store opened in the middle and northern part of the building (Sept. 25 & Oct. 5 respectively). All three tenants were of Montreal or Quebec origin.
Put up by GrocerymaniaSam on Flickr

It makes sense the poster is in French. The big rectangular facade in the poster matches the big rectangular bulkhead-looking thing on the building in my aerial photo above. Furthermore, the letters of the store name really were on top of the roof - November aerial images from the same year show the shadows of the letters falling onto the roof when looked closely through a focusing loupe. I find a lot of big stores in Nepean used big roof letter designs like that in the '60s (Shoppers City West did the same thing).

Aside from Pascal's, Miracle Mart was owned by Steinberg's which sat in the smaller southern half of the building. And from what my aerial photos show, it's obvious they remained in the building until around 1991. Around that time, the building got an addition at its Meadowlands end.

It was that year that the entire building changed, both in facade design as well as tenants. Steinberg's had gone bankrupt after difficult times catalyzed by the founder's death in 1978 (according to Wikipedia). Pascal's also became defunct. This screenshot from the GeoOttawa site from 1991 appears to show that:
1991. The big rectangle that was the facade for Miracle Mart is gone and now Zellers, and construction crews are evident at the southern end of the building as well as fences surrounding the defunct Pascal's facade for demolition.
Source: GeoOttawa

The '90s were the time of bigger players, as well as multinational names. Taking over Miracle Mart was Hudson's Bay Company's Zellers, a store that had been around since the 1940s and a national brand. Steinberg's was divided up into several separate spaces and added-on at the south end to include several American tenants, namely a Pier-1 Imports and an Olive Garden restaurant. Pascal's was also divided up, into a Staples - first signed as "Business Depot" - and a Winners.
Shared on the Lost Ottawa page on Facebook; date unknown, early 90s
"Business Depot" - shared on the Lost Ottawa page, Facebook. Early 90s.

This was how I remembered the building and stores as a kid: Sleek-looking white metal panels, crooked bulkheads and poles, giant flat or slanted store signage. Florescent lighting vertically along the walls, glass brick-box panelling. I guess the landlord decided to update the front of the building to have an ultra-modern look, except that on a sunny afternoon it might look like it could hurt your eyes. Zellers' store front was the most dramatic-looking, curved and rising high above the roof. It was the only store that had retained its massive floor space and was probably decided as the anchor of the building.

Things went smoothly along until the latter half of the last decade. In 2004, the building got a big extension along the major back wall. It was obviously for Zellers' benefit. The front of the building also got an update, changing the white panelling to, well, blue-grey and oaky green-brown. A few stores moved around - Winners went south, across Meadowlands, to the plaza on that side of the road. Red Lobster took over Olive Garden. BouClair moved to the other side of the building, and a place called HomeSense (apparently part of Winners) moved into the vacant northern end left by Winners.
Panorama I did outside the building in June 2011. The sidewalk fixtures like the bench remain the same from the 90s.

Wendys/Tim Hortons also showed up to sit in the corner of the parking lot in the late 90s. But Zellers was now floundering. They weren't bringing in enough revenue. The Hudsons Bay Company did not have much interest in a chain that was losing money, particularly its private American owner I'm sure. By the end of the last decade, Target was expressing interest in coming north of the border, and HBC took the opportunity.

What followed was a several year-long transition of closing Zellers stores, renovations, liquidations, and re-brandings. There was no doubt the floor space Zellers occupied is considered the anchor of the building; once Target started settling in, the entire building's facade was once again re-modelled.
Building under renovation again in summer 2013; own image.

Once Target took over (albeit briefly) everything changed, from the facade to the sidewalk fixtures, to even traffic ones - proprietary-looking stop signs at the entrance/exits of the parking lot, massive pedestrian crossing lines in front of the store. The red concrete balls were probably a given. Cart return stalls, which I don't recall seeing in that parking lot in the past. There was also the extremely massive extension that basically took up the entire pavement behind the building, meaning the rear entrance off Grant Carman Drive/Meadowlands had to be re-aligned for the first time since September 1987 (when Grant Carman was first paved as a road, necessitating a proper intersection).

Now the present and future is unclear. I was in that Target recently (last week). They've sold off quite a lot (not that their selves were ever that full to begin with). Almost everything was bare. Fixtures were also on sale. Despite the chain's failure, they did make the building look appealing. I like the light fixtures outside Red Lobster and the new sidewalk pavement. But now we have a gigantic empty space looming:

Screencap from the Colonnade Reality site; Target floor space in red.

In the brief history of Target I forgot to note the new addition of space at the northern side of the building; more retail space was divided up, creating space for the AppleTree clinic to cross the road from the Professional Centre to the 'mall.' You can see how huge the space has become thanks to Target. However, the one thing I do miss is the way the old signage would rise higher than the roof. Target's facade looks low and mundane, whereas Zellers used to have a tall, curvy sign with a signature-like logo that also appeared on the back corner of the building facing Meadowlands. In its place is a bullseye logo that just looks like something you should point an arrow at.

I hope something nice fits in Target's place. It would definitely be neat to see Zellers return. In its time, this plaza has gone from regional stores of Quebec origin to multinational tenants and national Canadian-wide anchors such as Zellers, to almost purely American tenants and giants like Target. It almost raises the question of where we're going in terms of our shopping interests, because there are fewer Canadian places left. Merivale Road itself used to be host to a lot of smaller Canadian chains that covered eastern Ontario/western Quebec and even all of Canada. Most, if not all, of them are gone or defunct. Where's Steinberg's? Where's Towers? Where's Woolco? I think those are all Wal-Marts now and have been since 1994.

I hope something good comes to take Target's place. But I also hope it doesn't mean they redo the building all over again. It's great-looking now. We don't need another update, surely?

Photos were borrowed from Flickr, Lost Ottawa, myself, and/or screencapped. I will remove them of any of the people/sites I've credited has any issue with them being here - otherwise thanks for letting me use them. Normally I wouldn't do a visual history of a retail building, but in this case I rarely had a tonne of information and images, so I couldn't resist.

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