J.P. Kirby's Commentary

Posted March 7, 2006 (user submitted)

Prince Edward Square in Saint John, New Brunswick is an example of what can happen when pretty much anything that can destroy a mall happens at the same time: the anchors downsizing, an expansion across town and a bad location. It still exists, but barely.

First, something to note about Saint John: the city is fairly spread out, so there wasn't one big regional mall until McAllister Place in the late 1970s. So to begin with, there were four smaller malls in different parts of the city which mostly drew from their immediate neighborhoods. The first three were Lancaster Mall on the west side, Loch Lomond Mall (another candidate?) on the east side and Lansdowne Place on the north end. All four of the original malls only had 20-30 stores.

Prince Edward Square opened in 1973 at Union and Prince Edward Streets, to serve the uptown and inner-city residents. It's located in the middle of a large apartment area, and there's an underground parking lot to serve them. The anchors were Towers (a Canadian chain) and an IGA supermarket. Also in the mall were a Shoppers Drug Mart and an NB Liquor store (with no inside access).

Almost immediately, it was threatened by Brunswick Square, a downtown 3-level mall that opened in 1978. Brunswick Square, however, lacked a major anchor, although it did attract most of the larger national chains that wanted a store in the heart of Saint John. Market Square, another anchor-less downtown mall that opened in 1983, became a tourist attraction. Prince Edward Square's clientele were mostly residents from the uptown and south end area.

For the first 20 years or so it functioned like any other small Canadian mall: it had a cross-section of mid-level chain stores, a discount department store and a supermarket. Towers was bought by Zellers in 1991, and the IGA became a Save-Easy in the mid-90s.

The mall started showing its age - it was never really renovated. Crime became a problem in the area, too. The worst thing that could happen was Zellers buying out K-Mart Canada in 1998. They decided to move into the two K-Mart stores in Saint John (which had much better mall locations), while closing two of the three Zellers locations, including Prince Edward Square. It was also around this time that Wal-Mart moved out of Loch Lomond Mall into a spot across from McAllister Place, and a power centre was built around it.

The former Zellers was turned into a call center, like so many other abandoned big-boxes across New Brunswick. The rest of the mall started falling apart, and a blank concrete wall now seperates the call center from the rest of the mall.

Save-Easy closed at the end of 2003 as part of chain owner Loblaw's decision to build and renovate larger stores under the Atlantic Superstore banner instead. This angered a lot of the people within walking distance of the mall, may of whom were elderly or poor and couldn't drive to the nearest supermarket. Giant Tiger (an extremely cheap discount department chain) took over the spot in 2004, and the mall is now on its deathbed.

The last time I was at Prince Edward Square was in October 2005. Shoppers Drug Mart and NB Liquor are still there, but not much else is. There are a couple local gift shops, a hot dog and a donut stand, a Dooly's pool hall, a Bank of Montreal, a pub and an H&R Block office. Even the dollar store had gone out of business.

Prince Edward Square was never a major player in the city's retail scene. It ended up caught in the middle between the upscale shops in the middle of uptown and the strip and big-box development further out. Since it was still in the middle of town, there was no room to expand to compete with anyone else. It may likely end up just being a footnote in the history of Saint John retail.

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