On Sept. 24, 1969, Lougheed mall opened in Burnaby.
The $15 million complex at Lougheed Highway and North Road was spread over several city blocks on the border between Burnaby and Coquitlam.
Shopping malls like this were all the rage in North America in the 1950s and 60s, as cities grew and spread out.
“The stunning population growth within the region saw the building of traditional suburbs,” said civic historian John Atkin.
“The filling in of Burnaby, for instance. Out Lougheed area, my great-grandfather (once) had a farm. It sat on North Road, so may have been part of the Lougheed mall project. You saw that expansion into green field areas and suburban housing, followed by cars, roads and the shopping mall.”
Indeed — when it opened, Lougheed mall had a giant parking lot that could hold 2,600 cars.
The Vancouver Sun marked the opening of the mall with a 36-page special advertising section, including 12 full-page ads from Woolco, which was opening its second Lower Mainland store.
Woolco was one of three anchor tenants at the mall, along with The Bay and Safeway. The Bay’s 125,000 sq. ft. outlet was the first location the historic firm had opened in a shopping mall. (It’s closing in December after 54 years.)
There were 70 stores in total in the mall, spread over two levels. A story in the advertising special portrayed the project as a mix of traditional retail and newfangled wrinkles.
“All store fronts facing the mall were designed in keeping with the gaslight, late 19th century theme incorporated in the mall,” read the story.
“Passage between the two levels is facilitated by a moving sidewalk, a continuous belt with 13 per cent grade that facilitates use of baby carriages and shopping carts on it. It is the first movator in a Canadian shopping centre.”
Lougheed also boasted Canada’s first three-screen movie theatre, to be run by 20th Century Fox.
“First run features — until now seen only in downtown theatres — will be shown in Cinema One, largest of the auditoriums, with a seating capacity for 700,” said a story on the theatre.
“Cinema Two, the smallest and most intimate theatre of the three, will seat 300 and films such as The Graduate will be screened there. Regular run films will be in Cinema Three, which has a seating capacity for 500.”
Safeway’s ad said it would be a “disco centre,” with “no gimmicks, no special radio or YV promotions, (and) no carry-out service.”
Safeway said this would result in “disco prices.”
“Operating costs have been reduced,” it said, and “food prices lowered accordingly.”
The mall was owned by Edper B.C. Ltd., a subsidiary of Great West Saddlery of Calgary, which was co-owned by the Bronfman family trust in Montreal and Calgary real estate developer Sam Hashman. Hashman had taken over the Lougheed site after Vancouver’s Jack Aceman had assembled it.
The Lougheed mall would become one of three very successful malls in Burnaby, alongside Brentwood (which opened in 1961) and Metrotown (which opened in 1986).
The malls were so successful that the City of Burnaby named three of its four “town centres” after the malls. But their large footprint also made them ripe for redevelopment.
The Lougheed mall was rebranded as Lougheed Town Centre in 2002, when the Millennium Line SkyTrain was constructed nearby.
It is currently in the midst of a $7 billion plan to develop 23 highrise towers on the site, with the aim of housing 10,000 people. It’s even got a spiffy new name, The City of Lougheed.
Redevelopment like this may seem like a relatively new concept, but Atkin said it’s part of a long-term regional plan “that all has its roots in the rejection of the freeway in Vancouver” in the late 1960s.
“When the freeway was killed, the Greater Vancouver Regional District came up with the livable region strategy,” he explained. “In 1974, they were setting out the plan for the town centres and city centres which we’re now seeing, like Metrotown, like Surrey city centre, etc.”
Atkin said the livable region strategy envisioned “densification around the road and transit networks and the old shopping malls,” which is what happened.
“It’s taken 50 years,” he said, “but that’s the arc that was started with the rejection of the freeway.”