Edmonton's Neighbourhood Corner Stores Make a Comeback

Posted by on Wednesday, August 24th, 2016 at 7:54am.

There’s no doubt that having some retail stores and services in your community adds value. That’s part of the charm of inner-city living in Edmonton and the hallmark of a truly walkable neighbourhood.  So it’s shame that so many strip malls in Edmonton, built in the 1950s when most people had one car if they had a car at all, have been left to die a slow death.

Recognizing that these neighbourhood treasures have been neglected, the City of Edmonton has implemented a pilot project to revitalize Corner Stores.  Corner stores and strip plazas were built at a time when Edmontonians walked to get their errands done.  These local shops began to wither when cars became cheaper and more families had that second car.  People began to drive past their neighbourhood merchants to go to the flashy mall even to pick up just a few things or move out further into brand new suburb.

Strip plaza owners and shop keepers barely scraping by didn’t have the funds for improvements.  In fact, the City of Edmonton believes there are more than 100 of these little plazas still eeking out an existence in mature communities.

Strip plazas in Ritchie Getting a Facelift

The Edmonton neighbourhood of Ritchie for example. The original homes in Ritchie are small and today’s families favour larger houses so many have moved to the suburbs.  There are two shopping plazas on either side of the community, one 76 Avenue and the other on 96 Street, and the City of Edmonton has included them along with two other neighbourhoods in it’s pilot program.

In partnership with the Ritchie Community League and local businesses, the City has provided funding to upgrade the areas surrounding the plazas.  Upgrading includes freshly paved sidewalks, rejuvenated landscaping, modern lighting and business development support to invigorate the businesses which occupy the plazas.

Ritchie Four Corners is Born

What started as a little renovation project has taken on a life of its own. Ritchie Four Corners is the new name of one of the plazas which will include new buildings on an empty lot where an old Texaco station once stood.  Ritchie Market will have a brew pub, a restaurant, coffee shop and a bike shop. Acme Meats, a long-established tenant will move in from across the street.  The shops and services in this new and improved retail hub will better suit the demographic now living in Ritchie which are younger people who employ a live-local philosophy and are completely on-board with transit-oriented development in Edmonton and the attitude shift when it comes to car culture.

Transformation in Newton

Over on Edmonton’s east side, a strip mall in Newton is also seeing new life thanks to the Corner Store pilot initiative.  A plaza there has gone from 50s blah to 2016 modern with a fresh façade and improved streetscape.  Some of the tenants who have been in the plaza for many years believe that business has improved along with the new look.  In addition to a denture clinic and a bowling alley, there is now a daycare and a fitness centre.

Other Communities Involved

Elmwood on the west side of Edmonton also has a strip plaza in the program which is currently in renovation mode, due to be completed in 2018. Other neighbourhoods scheduled for strip plaza upgrades include Calder, Belvedere, Patricia Heights, Eastwood and Forest Heights.

Citizen Advocacy at Work in Greenfield

Some local residents aren’t waiting for the City of Edmonton to add them to the Corner Store roster.  In Greenfield, a group is working hard to save Petrolia Mall which was half vacant and attracting crime.  New ownership has helped to improve the situation but change has been slow and more tenants will help attract more tenants, and so on.   With the vigilance and support of the community, Petrolia Mall and others through out Edmonton will rise again.

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