The modern history of Canadian cities can be written partly as a struggle between the pre-1939 shopping street — or high street, as they say in the UK — and the automobile-oriented shopping centre.
The high street has seen repeated setbacks, with the creation of full-service shopping centres in the early 1960s, the covered mall a few years later, and the big box more recently. In most cases, the shopping centre offers the retailer a reduced level of risk in terms of customer traffic levels, security, building maintenance and flexibility for expansion or contraction. For the shopper, the shopping centre often promises lower prices and an escape from the weather.
In fact, the high street has become something of a niche phenomenon — patronized by the carless, by friends and supporters of individual merchants, or by odd ducks who like to walk and browse but not necessarily buy. Continue reading