Ottawa's planning committee approves redevelopment for Westgate Shopping Centre

The mall first opened in 1955, but it's seen been outclassed by many larger and more up-to-date shopping centres
Westgate
A mock-up showing the five towers that will exist in the final version of RioCan's vision for the Westgate Shopping Centre. Also planned is a centralized public green space.

It seems Ottawa’s oldest mall won't be a mall for much longer.

The Westgate Shopping Centre, on Merivale Road, first opened in the spring of 1955, the first “weather protected” shopping mall in Ottawa.

The original mall had a Freiman’s department store and a movie theatre, both of which have long since closed. The mall’s retail stores, including Canada Post and Shoppers Drugmart, occupy the first storey of the building. Office spaces occupy a second story on the building’s east side.

On Tuesday the owner of the aging mall, RioCan Management, received approval from city councillors to build two 22-storey towers as part of a redevelopment plan that would see the mall torn down.

Area Coun. Jeff Leiper lauded the project as “sensitive development opportunity.

“Right now it’s acres of surface parking lot and a covered strip mall,” he said. “There’s an opportunity here to create something very dense that is going to have a relatively minimal impacts on the neighbourhood around it.”

Construction of the long-term project would take place in three phases, with the final version completed in 15 to 20. The final vision for the development includes five towers and 8,230 square metres of commercial space, 1,146 residential units and a central public green space.

Not everyone at the meeting was enthusiastic about the repurposed mall. Delegate Ruth Parent reminded councillors that many of the mall’s current patrons are seniors, and she worried changes would impact their habits.

“Let us have a little bit of the past, instead of tearing it down,” she pleaded, suggesting that the first mall in Ottawa’s history was deserving of heritage protection.

While there’s no heritage designation on the table, Coun. Riley Brockington acknowledged the mall’s long-standing history in the community and appealed to the developers to consider retaining the name or incorporating the area’s history.

This story originally appeared in Metro News.