Rideau Centre expansion a sign Ottawa's downtown is 'coming into its own,' mall manager says

The Rideau Centre officially cut the ribbon on its $360-million expansion project on Thursday, a massive redevelopment designed to bring a more “sophisticated” shopping experience to the city’s downtown core, mall executives said.

 “Ottawa has been growing up, I think, for a few years,” Rideau Centre general manager Cindy VanBuskirk said after the media had a sneak peek at the new four-storey, 230,000-square-foot portion of the mall on Wednesday night.

“Projects like ours, LRT, Arts Court, the new Andaz hotel in the (ByWard) Market, I think that’s all about a city that’s really coming into its own. In particular, I think this development will have such a significant impact on Rideau Street and will really be a linkage between (the University of Ottawa), Arts Court, Rideau Street and the ByWard Market.”

The expansion is anchored by Quebec-based retailer Simons, which opened its first Ottawa location with a 100,000-square-foot store in the space occupied by the former Ogilvy building.

The store’s first floor sits behind the facade of the historic Ottawa department store, which was restored brick-by-brick as a tribute to the site’s commercial past, while the giant windows in Simons’ second-floor cafe offer prime views of the Chateau Laurier and ByWard Market.

Among the other key attractions is a pedestrian space called Ogilvy Square, a joint project between the City of Ottawa and Rideau Centre owner Cadillac Fairview that runs along Nicholas Street from Rideau Street to Besserer Street.

Simons CEO Peter Simons said the redevelopment – and in particular public spaces such as Ogilvy Square – provide a breath of fresh air to the whole neighbourhood.  

“I can see the potential, I can see the vision of the street,” he said. “That’s an exciting thing to be part of. I think people will enjoy coming down to this space. I think there’s a lot of elements coming together.”

The expansion includes a total of 28 retail spaces, 21 of which are new to the mall. Among them are international brands such as Anthropologie and Massimo Dutti that are making their Ottawa debuts.

Cadillac Fairview executive vice-president of development Wayne Barwise said the new expansion will provide a more cosmopolitan shopping environment for the mall's 19.5 million annual visitors.

“Shoppers are very astute today,” he said. “They’re very sophisticated, and they’re looking for an international experience. That’s what we’re trying to provide here.”

Bridgehead CEO Tracey Clark said she was happy to bring a high-profile Ottawa brand to the new space as well. Her coffee chain opened its 20th Ottawa location and first in the Rideau Centre in a prime spot next to the Rideau Street entrance.

“Local is a movement everywhere,” she said. “I think it’s great that Cadillac Fairview and other large mall developers and owners look to have local content because it’s what people are after.”