Intercity Shopping Centre: A History | TBPL Research Blog

Once, there were two sister cities situated along the expanse of Lake Superior.  The land adjoining the boundary between the twin cities was referred to as Inter-city.  When these cities, the municipalities of Port Arthur and Fort William, amalgamated into the City of Thunder Bay, the Inter-city area changed from the divider of two entities into the heart of one.  What was once described as ‘barren muskeg’ and ‘skimpy Christmas trees’ became the largest shopping hub in the Thunder Bay District.  The Intercity Shopping Centre is seen as a staple of our community, a Thunder Bay institution that has adapted to the needs of its residents for over 70 years. 

The Intercity Shopping Centre reached its current stature in incremental stages, beginning in the mid-1950s as Inter-city Plaza, also named Port Arthur Plaza.  After Simpson-Sears built a 70,000 square foot department store, it was a short period of time before construction equipment was brought on scene to develop an adjacent plaza of storefronts, offering a one-stop shopping experience for both neighbouring cities.  Soon, stores like Loblaws, Zellers and F.W. Woolworths joined Simpson-Sears, employing upwards of 400 people.

In the late 1970s, consideration began taking shape regarding the expansion of the Inter-city Plaza and the development of a full shopping complex.  After a proposal from Greater York Properties Inc. fizzled out, momentum reversed when the Campeau Corporation initiated negotiations to construct a $20,000,000 shopping facility.  This 400,000 square foot shopping mall would be designed for 70 businesses and the mall’s anchor tenants, Sears and Zellers, would have a larger footprint.  Construction began in August 1981 and 14 months later, the Intercity Shopping Centre was unveiled to the intrigued public.

As the shopping complex continued to succeed, discussion of further expansion was reported by newspapers in 1989.  Officials from Thunder Bay and Campeau began strategizing to increase the shopping centre by 40,000 square feet, including the replacement of the separated plaza area, resulting in all businesses together, within one structure.  However, less than a year after expansion plans received authorization, Campeau Corp. was forced to halt the project due to financial difficulties, forcing the company to hang a ‘For Sale’ sign. In July 1991, Intercity Shopping Centre was sold to Toronto based Cambridge Shopping Centres Ltd. Three short years later, plans for 50 additional storefronts and a central court renovation was approved by the city and construction ensued.  On August 14, 1996, Intercity Shopping Centre revealed its $42M expansion to the community.  During the official opening, mall representatives also excitedly described non-shopping related initiatives such as fitness opportunities, community groups, programming and exhibitions.

While stores may come and go, ownership changes hands (Morguard is the current owner) and the very nature of consumerism changes, what remains constant is the central location, the very heart of our city.  The Intercity Shopping Centre has continued to reinvent itself to cater to our community’s needs, let’s see what the evolution of the next 50 years presents to us. 

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