What’s going on at the Confederation Court Mall?

Taking a brief walk through the Confederation Court Mall in downtown Charlottetown this morning, I noticed that “Fashion Access” on the second floor and the candy store on the first floor are out of business. They join Whipper Snapper, Charlottetown’s best (only?) toy store, which closed last week. What’s going on?


Dave's picture
Dave on January 18, 2005 - 22:57 Permalink

Every time in the past ~ 3 months that I’ve been in the Confederation Court Mall in the last 3 months, I have been one of about 10 shoppers in the mall at that time. Perhaps their new parking system/lack of major retail business has something to do with it, but whatever it is, the Confederation Court Mall is becoming more and more of a ghost town by the day.

Alan's picture
Alan on January 18, 2005 - 23:27 Permalink

The Island’s Thomas the Tank Engine junkies must be shattered at the news of Whipper Snapper’s passing.

Ann's picture
Ann on January 19, 2005 - 02:02 Permalink

What’s happened? Walmart. Sears.

Even the Charlottetown Mall has been looking a bit empty recently. With the plans to tuen the Sears decelopment into what i think they call a power centre there will be even more competition for the poor downtown merchants. I think the ones who have stuck it out are very brave and I applaud them. And patronize them, too.
Though I guess I didn’t buy enough fudge if the candy place is shut.

Jevon's picture
Jevon on January 19, 2005 - 03:39 Permalink

If it was possible to live downtown, there could at least be a base of support for these merchants. The cost of doing business in a small downtown like Charlottetown doesn’t have to be higher., and merchants need to learn that they have to compete with big-box stores on many levels.

al o'neill's picture
al o'neill on January 19, 2005 - 04:31 Permalink

The downtown businesses that can survive on tourist dollars seem to be ruining it for those of us who’s business they don’t seem to need, and it’s in turn hurting the other businesses downtown who can’t survive on what they make during the summer from people who can shop during working hours…

Will Pate's picture
Will Pate on January 19, 2005 - 08:53 Permalink

It could be that the economy is hurting too. Our top industries are suffering or just plain dying, and our government is out of money. I had a friend that worked in one of the big box stores during the back to school season and their sales were down to a fraction of what they were the year previous for the same period.

Ann's picture
Ann on January 19, 2005 - 13:38 Permalink

I am a bit embarassed to admit that I’m a fan of The Daily — statscan’s very excellent compendium of the latest economic (and other) figures.

Here’s what they had to say most recently about retail sales in PEI

PEI’s retailers sold 2% more in value in October than in September of this year on a seasonally adjusted basis; the value of retail sales in October was $116.9 million. This level of sales is also about 1% more than in October of last year (SA.)

The cumulative value of PEI retail sales from January to October of this year is $1.115 billion, just 0.38% less than the cumulative value for the same period in 2003. (On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, year-to-date October retail sales are off 0.47% compared to the same period in 2003, valuing $1.135 billion in the first 10 months of this year.

Regionally, PEI’s September to October rise of 2% led the group in retail sales gains on a seasonally adjusted basis. Nfld.& Lbdr sales were up 1.3% N.B. sales down 0.6%; N.S. up 0.5%.

So someone is spending money somewhere.

Marcus's picture
Marcus on January 20, 2005 - 00:58 Permalink

Couple of somewhat related things are contributing I’d say:

1) sprawl

Whatever happened to the Roundtable on Land Use attacking this problem in PEI? We now have even more subdivision happening of the countryside and you can find “ribbon development” along all the rural roads around Summerside and Charlottetown. You only have to drive the Blue Shank or out to Abram’s Village, or go out through Emyvale, North Winsloe, Suffolk, etc. in that supposed “controlled development zone” (at least Charlottetown’s version of the which is labelled a failure) to see this happening. And now I see where they’re going to subdivide the area east of Greenwich — one of the fastest eroding coastlines in eastern North America. Brilliant. I guess if Charlottetown wants an urban area stretching to the edge of the national park and out to Brookvale and east to Pownal, we’re going to get it, one way or another. Summerside has pretty much built right across their isthmus, but it’s not like they had much land to go with there anyway. It’ll also get mightily expensive for local ratepayers to get all those roads paved, plus the damage from umpteen thousands of wells and septic systems, so they’ll have to have central water/sewer — another expense — plus you need to set aside a huge area for new well fields for these new developments. That’ll piss the farmers off when they’re told they can’t even change the engine oil in a tractor, much less farm potatoes within 20 feet of a stream, or run cows through a marsh.

2) big box

We aren’t concentrating our retail areas enough and are just letting any developer come in and throw these monoliths down all around the perimeter. It’s the same old argument. My grandparents recall how the downtown merchants (which included Eaton’s and Holman’s at that time) complained about the first shopping centre — the Royalty Mall — going in back in the 50’s. They filled in the pond and built it only 1 km from downtown, and now it’s pretty much out of date and useless. Then the Charlottetown Mall went in and Towers Department Store pretty much killed Holman’s and Eaton’s off (in PEI at least), although Holman’s and others countered by building Confed. Court which held its own for a while. And West Royalty was only 3 km from downtown. Now the big box retailers set up in the old sand pit behind Rodd’s Royalty Inn are too crowded, so the new development hotspot in South Winsloe out at the Arterial Highway almost 5 km from downtown are going to repeat the effect. Confed. Court Mall supports office workers on their downtown lunch breaks these days and that’s about it. It’s the PEI version of a Scotia Square, or a Highfield Square out-of-date retail space.

3) transit and high density development

This is the only way to save what’s left of things. I’d have no problem if the provincial government put in a firm urban boundary and prohibited land subdivision in agricultural areas. Let Hunter River, Victoria-Crapaud, Montague, Tyne Valley, etc. all build up within their boundaries, but prevent the single family dwellings spreading out all over the countryside. And get an efficient transit system going which can let people leave their cars in the driveway so they can shop and travel downtown without worrying about Queen’s Parkade being full.

Ritchie Simpson's picture
Ritchie Simpson on January 20, 2005 - 01:42 Permalink

Downtown Ch’town has been in a long slow slide for a long slow time. The reason is clear; weak indecisive leadership in City Hall. We’ve payed lots of money for plans, planners, planning departments only to have last minute and short sighted decision slowly destroy downtown Charlottetown.
The commercial heart of PEI is now spread out along University Ave. for 5K, because City Councillors want to flex what little muscle they have by undermining the planing process. “Look at me I got enough power to make it happen for you!!” Our present civic council is probably the worst in many years and its being used constantly and loving it. There is no will on Council to do anything serious about downtown and its being lea daround on
One of the strengths of being small should be that we can make focused decisions for the good of all, unfortunately the civic fathers of Charlottetown have undermined the entire plannning process to the point that we are very much in danger of losing old Charlottetown for ever.

Ritchie Simpson's picture
Ritchie Simpson on January 20, 2005 - 01:48 Permalink

sorry, wrongkeyitis…There is no will on Council to do anything serious about downtown and its being lead around on by special interests and making decisions based on short term political goals. It does not matter whether these decisions are about snow removal, development or heritage.

Ken's picture
Ken on January 20, 2005 - 03:32 Permalink

People choose to live where they want, what’s so wrong with that? If downtown has less business it’s because no one shops there. They choose to shop somewhere better. Why shop where the parking is bad, farther from where you live, with less selection and higher prices?

They should have forced WalMart to locate exactly where the Atlantic Technology Centre is. Turned a loser into a winner.

Lou Quillio's picture
Lou Quillio on January 20, 2005 - 14:21 Permalink

People choose to live where they want, what’s so wrong with that?”

Anyone may buy some land, erect a tent or hut or cabin, build an outhouse, catch rainwater, garden, and live. These private ambitions affect no one else.

Or did you want to tap the aquifer, too? And have schools and police and fire protection? Probably have septic disposal needs, eh? No doubt we’ll have to get electricity to you. Nice roads to whisk you to work, plus the usual roadside amenities? Waste removal? Broadband? Street lights? Pizza delivery?

Oh, and jobs. Probably you’ll want jobs too, now and in the future.

Choose to live where you want, but your choices for doing so are a public matter.

Unless you’re just pitching a tent.


Ken's picture
Ken on January 20, 2005 - 15:40 Permalink

OK Lou, you make a point about the public impact, and it is well taken.

The choice here is in the city with more taxes, or in the suburbs with less land tax. So people avoid the higher taxes and the downtown suffers for it.

The city has priced themselves out of the market.
Or the suburbs are under taxed.
Either way, the growth is in the suburbs.

The only tax free place to live is on the ice in a fish shack, but that only gets you through winter.
Then you could raom the beaches all summer, but who’d want to do that? Hmmmm.

Mandy's picture
Mandy on January 20, 2005 - 18:32 Permalink

I work part time in said Confed Court mall and I see how that it is getting worse by the day. However, it’s the winter season. The winter season is hard on our mall. It’s summer where our mall benefits. Cruise ships with short in dock time allow for many walking passengers to grab what they can before heading back out to sea. Same goes for tour buses. Our business is a summer business. Which is sad, I hate to see it be so seasonal.

And it is very correct. Big box stores are killer to our little shops. Who wants to go out of their way for a gift card when you can get one in the line up at Sobey’s, Who wants to pay a hefty price on clothing, when you can grab half decent threads at another less pricey shop? And so on. Box stores and places like the Dollarama are the big hits.

Parking is horrible. I hate to work in the week days there, because parking is a waste of my money. It’s hard on people who work in the mall to pay. The parkade is too much money, so many admittedly try to get a spot on the street, close by, so they can pay the meter, or move the car to a new spot quickly, and not get slapped with the parkade fees. That of course causes less parking for consumers, so nobody wins.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on January 20, 2005 - 19:50 Permalink

It would seem to me, as a heated indoor space with plenty of seating, the Confederation Court Mall offers something that no other space in Charlottetown does in the dead of winter: a sort of “village square.” Surely it would be possible to leverage this into business in the winter months?

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on January 20, 2005 - 20:15 Permalink

Peter, it is exactly this weird indoor microcosm that makes me not want to go to the Confederation Court Mall. When I’m in there, I feel like I could could in Moncton, Regina, or Des Moines. I’d rather see them open the thing up.

dan@ceoblues.com's picture
dan@ceoblues.com on January 20, 2005 - 21:00 Permalink

I agree with Peter. I’ve always thought the big square in the center of the mall (the seating of the food court) would make an ideal indoor market on the weekends. With so many entrances and ways up to there I would think it would work well. That being said, I also agree with Steve. I find malls weird and generic.

Lou Quillio's picture
Lou Quillio on January 20, 2005 - 22:38 Permalink

Hi, Ken: “Or the suburbs are under taxed.”

There it is.

Everybody wants the same services. It’s more expensive to deliver them to the suburbs, but for some reason folks don’t pay an on-going premium to build and live in the suburbs. Obviously this arises from competition amongst municipalities and the willingness of some to pander to “development,” whatever that is. Strip it down and you find nothing more noble than opportunism and graft, justified by “choice” and rugged SUV self-determination.

In the end, suburbs are new towns being formed on the backs of cities. They suck them dry and cast them off, and then the same thing happens to the new towns.

Until you reach the water, that is — or, worse, until you run out of water.

It’d be nice if this all could happen within an awareness of limited common resources, but it seems we have to strain the limits before we can see them, see that we’re in this together and always were.


Mandy's picture
Mandy on January 21, 2005 - 15:52 Permalink

A market would be a good idea, but how would you make people come?.. that mall on a Saturday morning is like a ghost town.

I like the structure of this mall… I like how from the outside it doesn’t look like there would be anything behind those shop windows. I hear a lot of comments from tourist who are “wowed” with the idea of the open space in there. It doesn’t remind me of any mall like the flat, one level malls you see some places (including out own at the other end of town)

DerekMac's picture
DerekMac on January 21, 2005 - 16:29 Permalink

The Confederation Court Mall has always had a problem attracting visitors. The fact that it was made out of the back yards of a bunch of existing buildings makes it difficult to visualize as a mall from the street. They have worked on making the entrances more obvious, but many tourists still miss it.
For many Islanders, the lack of a parking lot is an impediment. There is that Parkade thing across Kent street, which offers free parking on Saturday, but many Islanders don’t like to use it (not to mention those new-fangled Kiosks on the street). Perhaps an advertising campaign outlining its advantages (stay dry when it is raining or snowing) is needed.
The downtown is experiencing the same problems that many larger cities have already experienced — everything is moving to the malls. Downtown Summerside has a similar problem. I note that they are doing a lot of advertising of late. Perhaps Downtown Charlottetown should be conducting a similar campaign.

Rob L.'s picture
Rob L. on January 21, 2005 - 16:58 Permalink

I agree with Ritchie. The blame for the state of the downtown in general has to fall, in large part, on City Hall. Can anyone point to anything substantial that’s been done to stop the slide? I would love to see some bold steps. Free two hour parking — anywhere. Massive property tax cuts in the core. Investment in infrastructure. A solution, of some kind, to the University Ave bottle neck. Public transit. Cut the red tape on residential development. The private investment, residents, and customers will follow. Get crackin’! Perhaps these suggestions are entirely the wrong approach. But I just want to see someone step up and say “we’re taking an entirely new approach”. I had a certain councillor tell me with a straight face that our downtown was essentially perfect, and that a particular developer was going to ruin it all — or that was the gist of what he said, more or less. Does not inspire confidence that anything will change.

Mandy's picture
Mandy on January 21, 2005 - 16:59 Permalink

I agree there, people don’t know it’s free to park on Saturdays. It’s better now with the new parking kiosks because it tells you on it.. but people still don’t know. Unless it smacks them across the face, people often miss things.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on January 21, 2005 - 18:24 Permalink

Some of you make it sound rather easy. Reality is, cutting down a tree that poses a health hazard in Ch’town causes a Devil-tail of consternation. Owners of older buildings are afraid to even paint, lest they feel the wrath of heritage police. Downtown dwellers fight tooth and nail to keep parking lots and activity out of their neighbourhood. Working waterfronts everywhere face the criticism of recent “new to the neighbourhoods” who don’t like the sound of trucks and the smell of fish or oil.
Major developers not only are fed up with beaurocratic red tape from City Hall, they are fed up with trying to jump through hoops to satisfy downtown residents. (Who long for downtown grocery stores, but shop their only for bread, milk and complain when the store is out of some fancy mustard) No wonder developers take their money out of town. The City Councillor has so many to please, it seems like an impossible task, and one that is found in more and more mid-size towns and cities.

Walt's picture
Walt on January 21, 2005 - 18:48 Permalink

The commercial heart of PEI is now spread out along University Ave. for 5K, because City Councillors want to flex what little muscle they have by undermining the planing process. “Look at me I got enough power to make it happen for you!!” Our present civic council is probably the worst in many years and its being used constantly and loving it.

Ritchie’s absolutely correct — there’s a reason why planning and development officers have bailed out from the city corporation in recent months/years, and it isn’t necessarily because of the salary. One planner I knew, who will remain nameless and is no longer with the city, used to get “visited” in his office on average about 10-15 times/week by a certain councillor, who will remain nameless, lobbying for this development or that developer, or to get exemptions to the city’s official plan. One time I was in his (the planner’s) office having a meeting and the said councillor strutted right in, puffed up like a peacock and ignoring our meeting, and asked if he could speak to him (the planner) about an important matter… Take what you will from that.

Another thing, in talking with friends who are in the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program at Dalhousie, and several others at Queens and Guelph, etc. — the word has been out for almost 5 years among the nation’s graduating planning students to avoid getting employment with the City of Charlottetown at all costs. The political interference and cronyism, and lack of integrated development planning with an ineffective provincial government in controlling the growth of suburbs and exurbs is well known among most planning schools. Most cities in Canada hire planning students on co-op terms to do a lot of the nitty-gritty work in planning/implementing developments and growth strategies during the summers — again Charlottetown is on the black list for reasons stated above.

Marcus's picture
Marcus on January 23, 2005 - 03:08 Permalink

Lou’s right — sprawl is the result of a tax issue and something that PEI Dept. of Treasury should start addressing. Taxes must reflect the exact cost a development is exerting on society. If new developments say, out in Emyvale or Dunedin (my personal beef — two of my friends just moved out there in new developments which should never have been approved), then those new developments should pay for future road deterioration, some type of rate for depleting local groundwater, contributing to septic, more cost for electricity, etc. Existing farms and perhaps residential properties built before a certain period could be grandfathered in and everything afterward get the higher rate to make it prohibitively expensive and force people to cluster.

It’s not only taxes though. Taxation will alter people’s behaviour but there needs to be province-wide organization on these combined issues: transit, highways/road improvements, retail development, industrial development and residential development.

So it appears that petty politics is driving development policies, something which is likely evident in many PEI municipalities on one scale or another. Very earth-shattering indeed. I’d advocate removing all planning & development from the various municipalities and see it centralized in a province-wide impartial agency (is that possible?).

I don’t really care whether it’s under the provincial government or arms-length (like IRAC — I had thought they were supposed to be involved in this area?), but we have to move on from the thus-far disastrous effects where we’ve seen:

- sprawl/subdivision of the countryside

- approval of low-quality developments. We have a huge number of cheaply-built wooden-framed, vinyl siding apartment buildings. Why not mandate developers to build using more durable concrete (like in Halifax and other centres) & better external aesthetic designs using brick, stone, etc., with a set number of units set aside as condos, some as higher-end rentals, some as mid-range rentals, and others in the same development subsidized at lower rates for social housing? Vancouver and many other municipalities are doing this — they even mandate that a developer who builds a large enough development, include the design and building of schools and stores to support the new population there. We didn’t see that in West Royalty did we, where Bell Heights and all those new subdivisions went in and parents started complaining about bussing their kids all the way into town and demanded the province build a new school — so the gov’t did at taxpayer expense…

- this is somewhat tied in with sprawl, but within municipalities we have very poorly-sited developments such as those townhouses along University Ave. which are an incredible eyesore, or the building down on the waterfront between HMCS Queen Charlotte and the bridge, or the old school which was turned into a boat in Borden, etc. These developments wouldn’t look so bad if they were part of an overall development for those areas (including streetscape changes) but right now they’re awful looking.

We’re lucky in many ways that we’re an island and everything we do within our shores is our jurisdiction — we don’t share a boundary with any other province/state, so why not use that to advantage and remove the local politicking etc. from development and go to a big picture province-wide approach where we could have a team of expert architectural, engineering, evironmental, and heritage/conservation professionals do the work. PEI is small enough that we should have an overall official plan and all zoning etc. should be island-wide to promote good developments in our existing cities, towns and villages while ensuring agricultural areas remain viable. Any proposed developments would be handled by the agency professionals and then have some type of input from the public through a collaborative e-citizenry concept (Minnesota is a pioneer in this).

Probably a very scary concept for municipal politicians though, to remove the development power from their hands! I think once you start concentrating the population and getting rid of the commuter society then places like Confederation Court Mall and Waterfront Mall will be successful. I also like Peter’s concept of an indoor market — it’d be nice to have downtown Charlottetown and Summerside versions of the Saint John City Market which could be supported by a vibrant urban residential communities in those municipalities, and by residents in the rest of the outlying areas connected by an efficient transit system.

jeff's picture
jeff on January 25, 2005 - 18:57 Permalink

A big challenge facing the Confederation Court Mall (or other downtown retailers)in those other months we don’t call ‘tourism season’ is the simply abysmal states of our city streets. Certainly, 3 major snowstorms in a week is difficult to manage but it seems every time there’s a snowfall someone from the City is in the news begging for ‘patience from the public’ in dealing with the snow as the cleanup runs on for days and days. Meanwhile, the snow just keeps on piling up. Hard to go shopping at the Mall when Kent Street is (almost) one and a half lanes, depending on the size of your vehicle relative to the ones parked along the snowbanks.

Ann's picture
Ann on January 26, 2005 - 01:52 Permalink

You know, I thought the city did a remarkable job this time. I was able to walk on a sidewalk all the way down University Ave to the cenotaph and down Kent to the Charlottetown Hotel. All of this before 8 in the morning. I’ve carped before about snow removal but this was terrfic.