Retail space going unfilled in Fredericton's Kings Place Mall

·5 min read
Some businesses at Kings Place Mall, in the heart of downtown Fredericton, have  been moving elsewhere. (CBC News - image credit)
Some businesses at Kings Place Mall, in the heart of downtown Fredericton, have been moving elsewhere. (CBC News - image credit)

It's been weeks since customers started lining up outside a popular shoe store in Kings Place Mall, waiting to buy one, two, even three pairs of shoes that have come on sale.

Quality Shoes in Fredericton will be closing up shop this week after nearly 40 years in business.

"I'm really going to miss my customers," said Peggy Currie, the store manager.

"They weren't just customers, I met a lot of really dear friends over the years … they were so dedicated, they just wouldn't buy shoes anywhere else."

Quality Shoes at Kings Place is closing after nearly 40 years.
Quality Shoes at Kings Place is closing after nearly 40 years.(Elizabeth Fraser/CBC News)

Quality Shoes is one of many businesses Kings Place Mall has lost over the past year, and Currie hasn't heard of any other business moving in.

"There are a lot of gaps here in the mall," she said.

Currie has been working at the downtown shoe store for almost 27 years and said it was time to retire. John Henderson, the store's owner, is also retiring.

The owner of the mall did not respond to requests for an interview about the increasing amount of retail space that's become empty at the mall.
The owner of the mall did not respond to requests for an interview about the increasing amount of retail space that's become empty at the mall.(Elizabeth Fraser/CBC News)

Currie said she'd hoped someone would take over the business, but there hasn't been much interest.

But customers were devastated by news the store was closing, she said.

"What are they going to do? Where are they going to go?"

The King Street mall opened in the early 1970s along King Street, between York and Carleton streets, has lost a number of tenants, including Envy, a women's clothing store now at the Regent Mall uptown.

The former Running Room at Kings Place Mall. The store has moved to another spot downtown,
The former Running Room at Kings Place Mall. The store has moved to another spot downtown,(Elizabeth Fraser/CBC News)

Sorella Hair Salon Spa Fredericton and McDonalds have also closed up shop at Kings Place.

The Running Room, a tenant of Kings Place Mall for the past 15 years, moved to a building across the street in October.

"We just outgrew the other store," said John Acheson, area manager for the Running Room.

He said the new space is also to better accommodate the store's running clinics, as people can congregate outside on the sidewalk.

The Running Room recently moved out of Kings Place to a building across the street.
The Running Room recently moved out of Kings Place to a building across the street.(Elizabeth Fraser/CBC News)

Meanwhile, businesses like Maritime Travel have had to close temporarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tenants upstairs also moved next door to the newly developed 140 Carleton St..

The developer of the new office building at Carleton and Brunswick streets described it as the sexiest building in Fredericton, while Kings Place was voted one of the top 10 ugliest buildings in an informal survey in 2016.

For several months, the six-storey mall has been littered with sale signs or offering spaces for lease.

Kings Place is also a hub for public transit in downtown Fredericton, which hurts the chances of more convenient entrances to the mall.
Kings Place is also a hub for public transit in downtown Fredericton, which hurts the chances of more convenient entrances to the mall.(Elizabeth Fraser/CBC News)

CBC News has tried to talk to Colliers, a Vancouver-based company that owns and oversees the mall, but did not receive a response.

Bruce McCormack, general manager of Downtown Fredericton Inc., said the city was looking at ways to rejuvenate Kings Place in its city centre plan from 2016.

Part of the problem is that there is no way into the mall except by entrances almost at either end or from a parking lot in the back, along Brunswick Street.

The 2016 plan looked at creating a transit hub behind Kings Place, at the parking garage. The upper floors of the parking garage would still be used as parking spaces.

Former Freddy's Waffle Station at Kings Place has expanded into a secondary yoga studio for the Nest Yoga.
Former Freddy's Waffle Station at Kings Place has expanded into a secondary yoga studio for the Nest Yoga.(Elizabeth Fraser/CBC News)

By removing transit buses from King Street, McCormack said, each business in the mall could have its own entryway, instead of having to face a line of buses.

"That's a real strong retail street," he said.

The modifications would be similar to the Uptown Centre on Prospect Street.

Offices on the fifth and sixth floors of Kings Place are vacant.
Offices on the fifth and sixth floors of Kings Place are vacant.(Elizabeth Fraser/CBC News)

The downtown transit hub has been at Kings Place since at least the early 1980s.

"By removing the buses off King, we could actually take those businesses and bring them out to the street so they would each have their own entryway," he said.

He said officials with the city and Kings Place Mall were meeting together to discuss the physical changes that would allow for more entrances. But because of COVID-19, those plans have been halted.

Leasing signs have been put up all throughout Kings Place Mall.
Leasing signs have been put up all throughout Kings Place Mall.(Elizabeth Fraser/CBC News)

"We're hoping those discussions will continue," he said.

And it's not all doom and gloom for the downtown shopping centre.

Jenn Tuttle, owner of the Nest Yoga at Kings Place Mall, said an outside door to her studio is one of the many reasons her business was able to thrive.

Kings Place Mall before opening Friday morning.
Kings Place Mall before opening Friday morning.(Elizabeth Fraser/CBC News)

"People still kind of wander in in the evening," she said. "They're out for a walk and see our doors are open and they'll pop in. That's a big help, we can determine our own hours of operation."

The mall closes at 6 p.m., making it difficult for local businesses to stay open later.

"Anybody who would think they would want to come shopping in the evening, well they can't because Kings Place is closed."

Jenn Tuttle, owner of the Nest Yoga, front, says she expanded her business at Kings Place Mall because the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged more people to try yoga and shop at the Lulemon boutique.
Jenn Tuttle, owner of the Nest Yoga, front, says she expanded her business at Kings Place Mall because the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged more people to try yoga and shop at the Lulemon boutique.(The Nest Yoga)

The Nest is the only hot yoga studio in Fredericton and was able to expand with a second studio in March. Tuttle said it's because more people are trying yoga in the midst of the pandemic.

But she also blames COVID-19 for some of the vacancies at Kings Place because more people are working from home and aren't perusing the shops of Kings Place on their lunch break.

"You're kind of hit with that as well," she said.