One of Canada’s oldest shopping centres won’t be closing after all. In April Retail Insider reported that Le Boulevard in suburban Montreal would be shuttering in December of this year after an announced expropriation for a new transit expansion and now plans have changed.
The Société de transport de Montréal planned to acquire the entire property for the expansion of Montreal’s rapid transit ‘Blue Line’ that will extend to the Galeries D’Anjou shopping centre on the north part of the Island of Montreal. Prior to that, plans had originally been in place to expropriate part of the shopping centre property and it was ultimately decided in February of this year that given the challenges associated with operating on only part of the site, taking over the entire property made more sense. Disruptions around construction and access were also taken into consideration as it was expected that many tenants would vacate the centre during construction, regardless.
There will still be construction disruption for the new transit line and tenants are being given the option to stay on-site with no rent increases. Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2022 according to a report in the Montreal Gazette.
Le Boulevard was the third shopping centre to be built in Montreal and it opened in September of 1953 with 32 stores. The open-air shopping centre was enclosed in the 1970s and expanded in the shape of an L to house about 70 retail businesses. The upscale Henry Morgan department store company opened a one-level store at Le Boulevard in 1953 which was expanded to two levels in 1958. Prior to opening at Le Boulevard, Morgan’s operated exclusively out of a massive building at 585 Ste-Catherine Street West in downtown Montreal which was rebranded as a Hudson’s Bay store in 1972.
The Morgan’s store at Le Boulevard was also rebranded as Hudson’s Bay in 1972, where it operated until its closure in September of 2018. Landlord Crofton Moore set out to redevelop the 100,000-square-foot Bay box by demising it for several new tenants including an Aubainerie store.
Le Boulevard encompasses about 400,000 square feet of retail space and prior to the pandemic, saw more than 8 million annual visitors. The centre is located at the corner of Jean Talon Street and Pie IX Boulevard which sees more than 60,000 cars pass by daily. Existing tenants include Canadian Tire, Metro Plus Supermarket, Urban Planet, Jean Coutu, SAQ (Liquor Store) Dollarama, and Ardène, to name a few. Landlord Crofton Moore had been marketing the mall’s former Hudson’s Bay space for re-tenanting as part of a strategy shift for the historic centre prior to the pandemic.
The Le Boulevard was one of the first suburban shopping centres in Canada when increasing suburbanization in the 1950’s saw modern shopping malls open in automobile-dependent locations on the outskirts of major cities. The rise of the shopping centre is blamed in part for the demise of downtown retail in North America as well as the downtown department store model that was once in every major city.
It’s unclear what will happen to the Le Boulevard site when the Blue Line is finished. Given the size of the site and its proximity to transit, it may be the case that a mixed-use development including retail and residential will be part of a future redevelopment.