‘Pen Centre’ in St. Catharines Upgrades Including New Tenants for Target & Sears Boxes

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The Pen Centre in St. Catharines, Ontario, has taken advantage of the closures of Target and Sears in recent years to redevelop those big spaces to drive more traffic to the shopping mall.

Iavor Perduhov, Retail Manager for the Pen Centre, said having those big box spaces occupied is important.

“It’s huge for us. First of all, we’re leasing out vacant space. It’s a huge space for a shopping centre. It’s going to drive a lot of traffic. It’s going to rejuvenate the hallways in adjacent areas,” he said. “It’s going to add a couple of alternative uses that we don’t have right now – a gym and a college. That’s going to bring in a lot of people to the Centre.

“We anticipate food court sales are going to increase as a result of that. We anticipate it’s going to be luckier for us to attract restaurant concepts as a result of that. It’s just a natural process of evolution for that space.”

The 127,000-square-foot Target store closed in 2015 as part of the retailer’s departure from the Canadian market. Walmart took over the lease in May 2015. After a few hurdles, the retail giant just opened up in the space in August of this year.


Perduhov said Walmart expanded into the mall and out into the parking lot. The Centre also raised the parking lot by six feet to meet Walmart standards.

“They brought the latest and greatest designers to the store and they included grocery into there,” he said.

The Sears store in the shopping centre closed down in January 2018 as part of that company’s winding down of operations. That space was 194,000 square feet.

“The Sears space is three levels. You’ve got a basement, a main level, and a second floor. We’ve fully leased out the basement. I can announce that we will have Fit4Less in there. Almost 16,000 square feet. Although I can’t name it yet, there’s going to be a vocational college in the lower level as well in about 20,000 square feet and it’s going to bring about 700 students to the property,” said Perduhov.

“Then on the main level we’re going to be relocating our SportChek which is about a 28,000-square-foot brand new store. We’re also bringing in Mark’s at about 20,000 square feet and we’re currently in negotiations with a restaurant concept that I cannot announce. We’re going to bring it on the main level.

“The top level we’re still working on leasing but with the two main levels leased we’re pretty confident we’ll be able to wrap that up in the next year or two years. The Sears leased out areas are going to open up gradually. We’re just starting to build out the spaces now. We’re going to turn them over to the tenants and they are going to gradually open up through to 2020.”

Perduhov said that between Walmart and Sears the mall is investing $18 million in redeveloping the Sears space and doing some landlord work for the Walmart.

The Pen Centre is owned by the Ontario Pension Board and is managed by Cushman & Wakefield Asset Services. The centre is just under 1.1 million square feet with about 140 stores. It has been in operation since 1958.


The Centre has opened up a pop-up Lululemon store which opened for the back-to-school season and will be staying until the end of Christmas with hopes for possibly staying long-term.

It also opened a local micro-brewery pop-up Lock St. Brewing Co. Biergarten. Wine from local winery Megalomaniac is also available. That space is in the middle of the mall.

Pen Centre also installed, in partnership with Niagara College, two beehives on the roof and four pollinated gardens.

According to the Pen Centre, British Royalty officially opened the Pen Centre in 1958 as an open strip plaza.  At the time, the shopping plaza concept was fairly new to Canada from the United States. 

“Some of our existing tenants today were original mall tenants back in 1958. As the trend in shopping plaza design evolved to enclosed shopping centres, the owners of the Pen Centre kept pace by enclosing the mall in 1974.  Another major expansion took place in 1995, which added an additional 100,000 square feet and over 70 new stores, making the Pen Centre over 1 million square feet and the largest shopping centre in Niagara,” says the mall.

“During this expansion and renovation, the entire mall interior finishes were redone, and an additional wing was added.  Parking facilities, landscaping and roofing was also addressed at this time. The total renovation cost approximately $40 million. In 2002, the Pen Centre completed another exciting transformation, with a major redevelopment of the former Eaton’s wing that added another 170,000 square feet of retailing excellence.  This addition, adjacent to the Food Court Amphitheatre, offers the same classic Pen Centre architecture with high ceilings, bright skylights and spacious hallways.

“Another chapter in the history of the Pen Centre was written in 2005 with the development of a new 50,000 square foot retail plaza in the southeast corner of the shopping centre’s parking lot, adjacent to Pier 1. The new plaza, which backs onto Highway 406, welcomed five new stores.  As well, Sears Auto Centre was demolished to make room for two new freestanding restaurants, Boston Pizza and Kelsey’s.


“In 2011, the Pen Centre embarked on a $13 million renovation of the mall’s common area to create a brighter, refreshed and greener shopping experience. The environmentally and shopper-friendly redesign was inspired by Niagara’s vineyards, parks, gardens and trails. The renovation included the addition of three new skylights that have significantly improved natural light, brighter energy-efficient lighting throughout, improved air circulation, new washroom facilities with all hands-free energy efficient amenities and a hot-water-on-demand system as well as new recycling stations including organic waste, complete the environmental upgrades.”

That also included new entrance ways, mall directory boards and a newly-designed Guest Services desk. An entirely resurfaced, modern floor tile and design, and new ceiling with cove lighting transformed the mall’s ambiance and shopping experience. New soft seating throughout the mall and a completely redesigned larger Food Court with new modern seating and stool height counters were part of the renovations.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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