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New Districts

The Princess Theatre

The development of entirely new districts within the city limits was also a feature of Edmonton's growth during this period. The first of the new districts was Pleasantview. The portion of Pleasantview east of 106 Street had been part of Edmonton since 1914. The remaining portion was annexed in 1947. It was subdivided into one-half to full acre lots and sold under the Veterans' Land Act to war veterans. Later these new districts proved to be particularly popular with the baby boomers.

Walterdale Theatre

Other new districts developed in rapid succession through to the early 1980s. From Valleyview in the west to Capilano in the east and from Castle Downs in the north to Mill Woods in the south, Edmonton was expanding in all directions. Two of the most ambitious developments were Castle Downs and Mill Woods. Both projects began in the early 1970s for a planned residential population of 200,000. Both subdivisions differed radically from all previous ones. They represented the trend towards total concept planning. This means that several housing types, commercial buildings, institutions, and parks were planned at one time. Another feature of both projects was the reservation of land for a town centre that incorporated commercial, institutional, and high-density residential land uses. One difference between the two projects was that Castle Downs was designed and developed entirely by a private company while Mill Woods was designed by the City of Edmonton and then private companies were able to develop the individual lots.

In 1970, Mill Woods was the largest publicly sponsored land assembly project in North America. In that year, the provincial government purchased 4,425 acres (1,790 hectares) and then sold the land to the City of Edmonton in 1971 for residential development. The intent of the land assembly was to develop and maintain a large supply of housing lots to limit rapid increases in housing prices.

The first distribution of land in the Mill Woods subdivision was made on a first-come-first-served basis in April 1973. This event, in terms of its public interest, had some resemblance to the famous 1912 Hudson's Bay Co. land sale. The line up began to form at 2 p.m. although the sale did not begin until 9:30 a.m. the following day. As the Edmonton Journal noted: "lawn chairs, sleeping cots, card tables, coffee thermoses and even one television set were strung out in rough fashion on the city hall's main floor as the prospective home owners played cards and reviewed subdivision plans during the night."

Gainer Block

Malls developed along with suburbs. They served the existing population and encouraged further residential and commercial development in the area. This trend began in Edmonton between 1953 and 1955 when Westmount Shoppers Park was built. David Gray, a vice-president with Shoppers Park Westmount Ltd., said that: "retailers found that increased sales resulted from merchandise being made more accessible to the shopper." He also noted that shopping centres enhanced downtown business by reducing traffic congestion. Westmount proved to be a success - it expanded in 1979. Similar commercial developments began in other parts of the city. These included Bonnie Doon Mall in 1958, Northgate in 1963, Southgate in 1967, Londonderry in 1972, and Heritage Mall in 1981.

West Edmonton Mall

West Edmonton Mall, built in the 1980s, was the last of these types of commercial developments. Triple Five Corporation, owned by the Ghermezian family, built the complex over a six-year period in three phases, beginning in 1980. It was the largest mall in the world. Phase One, which opened in 1981, is 1,150,000 square feet (107,000 square metres), which provided space for 220 stores and services. Its interior furnishings include inlaid Italian marble floors and an enormous chandelier. West Edmonton Mall, however, is not only distinctive for its size and its decor. It also introduced a new form of retailing by providing a range of services (including recreational facilities) unparalleled in any other mall in North America. It has become a major Edmonton tourist destination in its own right. Real estate spin offs include housing developments such as West Edmonton Village - a multi-family development.

This article is extracted from John Gilpin, Responsible Enterprise: A History of Edmonton Real Estate & the Edmonton Real Estate Board. (Edmonton: Edmonton Real Estate Board, 1997). The Heritage Community Foundation and the Alberta Real Estate Foundation would like to thank John Gilpin and the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton for permission to reproduce this material.

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