Bruce Allen's Commentary

Posted April 24, 2011 (user submitted)

The Downtown Chatham Centre was a twin-level mall completed in October 1982. Indeed, there was was much fanfare, hoopla and press surrounding its Grand Opening, and was then being hailed as a major revitalization for the downtown core. For the most part, things started off on a good note. For much of the 1980's, the mall was nearly at capacity with plenty of stores such as Sears, Sam the Record Man, Coles Bookstore, Baskin Robbins, a supermarket, a food court that featured a wide assortment of restaurants like A&W, Crumbles Muffins, etc.

However it wasn't long before trouble started.

The recession that hit in the early 90's took a toll on the mall's tenants and traffic. 1/3 of the stores left the mall as the economy soured. Many people left the community entirely in search of better jobs out west. Now, well into the new decade, the mall is barely a shadow of what it once was. Most stores have left, leaving a hollow, empty shell. The Food Court upstairs has been reduced to a mere three restaurants. The entire complex is in dire need of renovations.

Sears is the only huge store left inside the mall, but business is way down as most people are flocking to new commercial and retail developments in North Chatham such as Home Depot, WalMart, Future Shop, The Real Canadian Superstore, Winner's, etc. There's also plans for a huge new movie theatre and another home improvement store to be built within the next few years. The recent opening of a newly-renovated theatre in Downtown Chatham did little to increase traffic at the mall, and the theatre itself is now in receivership after a mere six-months of operation. The parent company of the of the mall, Ivanhoe Cambridge, has been trying to sell off its share of this money-losing cesspit for several years now--apparently with little success or interest.

It remains to be seen what will become of the Downtown Chatham Centre (more commonly known simply as the "DCC"). Rumours abound that the entire place is on the verge of bankruptcy, and Sears is debating whether or not to renew their lease in 2012.

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